Ambition and despair

I don’t think any of us start down this path without vaunting ambition. There are those who think the path will be easy, and indeed a tiny tiny number have found it so, there are those who know the reality and expect to work hard for years. But all of those who start writing that book think that they will succeed. Some of us dream of being read by millions, and some by enough people to pay the bills. And some of us run closet hopes of being read by millions and resultantly having fresh peeled grapes fed to us by the beefcake dancing boy, while we recline in our hammock overlooking the beach in Tahiti. Not me, to be fair, I’ve always thought dancing boys very useful when one is short of shark bait. But ambition, yeah (and not just to go shark fishing.)

Ambition requires some degree of self belief. You don’t get very far in this trade with a mere desire for peeled grapes (or shark bait) if you lack the trust in your own ability and skill to ever show it to anyone. Yeah, we know. Amanda kept hers under the bed for years… Kate in the bottom drawer under her copies of Physical Geography, which was a lot more disappointing than she’d thought it would be. The point is they didn’t throw them out. They just took a little nudging. The problem is we’re our own worst judges. I have seen so many authors (some published too) with nothing more than conceit in the way of skills, which wears a bit thin quite fast, but with enough ambition and enough self-faith to make up for their deficiencies. There’s a sort of inverse law here. If you’re new, and you think your work is perfect, it probably isn’t. If you’re new and you think your work sucks so badly that you keep polishing it and trying to learn… it probably isn’t as bad as you think it is.

The point I’m trying to make, is without some sort of hope, without some sort of dream, without that ambition, burning long and hot and prepared to put in a lot of effort and of yourself, this is not going to work. So if you have barely the energy to brush your hair, and don’t really think you are as good as… (insert author here), barring a ton of luck it’s not going to happen. And if you’re really that lucky buy lottery tickets. You can buy a publishing house with the proceeds.

Because to counter that ambition, that bright oriflamme, the forces of despair will ambush you at every step, will send out more minions than Sauron. And you’re going to have to step past them or walk over their limbless corpses to get on. Yes, now you can turn the tables on the idiotic system of gatekeepers… but even self-publishing you’ll find the idiocies of Amazon (and yes, there are not a few of these) instead. There will be the will-sapping fights to get the document to look right on .epub… and the same but worse again for .mobi. Expect to have to get up off the ground dozens of times. Expect to have to work relentlessly for an audience, who will vanishing every time you don’t post, don’t make them laugh. Expect to have your best efforts torpedoed by things which are still beyond your control. And if you do make it through the conventional publishing hurdles – unless you’re one of the darlings – expect them to want you to work relentlessly… while they forget to pay you or forget to put the book on the shelves.

At the end of the day, whether you succeed or fail will probably be more a matter of luck than effort or judgement. But by heaven, if you don’t put in the effort, give it your astute thought processes, get up off the floor again and again… you’re not going to be lucky. Your ambition will lose to despair.
Now go out and kick some serious kneecaps! (too bad for those of you are cursed with tallness, and have to kick higher spots. Those are the breaks. We can’t all be dwarves.)

Yes. I am nearly finished the next Bolg PI story. The dwarf and attitude rub off.

16 comments

  1. I think it’s very bad of you to make fun of my ambitions. Sigh. Oiled dancing boys. Though I’d prefer chocolate to peeled grapes.
    Correct on all the rest, as usual.

    1. Have the oiled dancing boys dip the peeled grapes in chocolate before feeding you?

    2. I have had the oiled dancing boy – it was a pain getting him cleaned up in the shower, and he left a trail all over the house (toddlers are sooo much fun!)

      1. We had an oiled dancing cat. (she knocked over a bottle of olive oil mid dance and fell with it.) it was soooo much fun too.

      1. Actually the dancing boys I used to have was my younger son and his best friend, circa five years of age, and trust me, they got oiled — mostly butter because sandwiches were performance art. BUT at Thanksgiving they ran around with turkey legs in hand and got all greasy, too.

  2. Finally someone understands the vital importance of dancing boys, especially the importance of me getting them. I keep asking, using the cat theory of it never hurts to ask for exactly what you want.

    No oil, though. Hard to get out of the upholstery.

    1. Anti-macassars for the whole couch? And you know the Duchesse (feline) do you? Almost anything to shut her up… (she has demand-mew that would shatter titanium, let alone glass)

    2. Actually I prefer the cooking, cleaning, filing, typo-hunting boys. I need them badly. Mind you, being easy on the eye wouldn’t hurt! I don’t want to do anything to them, (I’m VERY married) but beauty gladdens the heart and refreshes the eye.)

    1. He looked guilty. “Bribing tachyons to not let me use the antitelephone about the cayley. I told them it was a misprint and it should be fermions. But they wanted femions or nothing. You see, it’s not that tachyons are not allowed to convey signals, they just won’t.”
      If this meant something to you, I should be worried about you. And respectful. “Not to use?” I said foolishly.
      “Yes, if they won’t carry a message, I’ll get a call from myself later. And then I will know which horses not to bet on. I need a new collider…”
      I covered my eyes. “Not again. That’s how many?”
      “I forget,” said Fintan airly.
      He’s never forgotten anything. And I remembered the last one, and chasing the Hog-bison through the tunnels. Never again. “You can’t catch it, and anyway, what are you going to do with it if you do? Bury it in the back garden?”
      “Ah, Eochaid,” said Fintan — he was one of the few people I trusted enough to let know my first name, “It’s the challenge. The thrill of dropping your noose around its nexus. And sometimes we have to catch it before we know what use it can be. Besides I have a new super-string lassoo to try out. And just think what capturing the particle gives mass could do for the dieting industry. Or even the organised church…”

  3. I don’t think I ever thought my stuff was _bad_Oh, sure it needed work. And it might not suit many people, but I didn’t think it was awful . . . very often. 😉

    Do dancing boys clean houses? Do the dishes? Work cheap?

  4. My work is not bad, it’s just written that way. *ducks*

    I’d wager that authors are also curious if there is anyone else out there who might find my characters and universe the least bit as interesting as we do. It is a bit like John Scaliz wrote about reactions among geeks vs. hipsters this past weekend: are there any readers who might go “Oh my gosh, this is so cool! Hey gang, take a load of this, I’ve never thought of looking at [thing] this way before, you’ve got to read it.” or “Dang it, don’t leave me hanging, what happens next in her life? Does she survive/ get the job/ marry him already/ give in and assassinate the Elders’ Council one by one?”

    1. I must admit that every time I come with yet another obscure (but to me hilarious, because I have that sort of mind) play on the character/scene/history/ physics all in one I have a huge desire to show anyone else. I do realise that some puzzled expressions and cautious backing away are normal human signs of appreciation. I wish you lot were more like us monkeys and ROFLMAO when attacked by my prose. But it’s a cultural difference, really.

      1. Now Dave, you know very well that the last time you let me look at some of your more interesting prose I spent the next several hours giggling madly.

        It’s such a shame you don’t have that story in electronic format. I rather suspect it would sell as an indy piece. I’d buy it – and encourage other people to do the same.

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