Channelling Sisyphus

"Your Greek gods were, let's be honest, big children. They were free to do what they liked and punish any mortals and immortals that got in their way. Just look at how many demi-gods there were running around killing monsters! Let's be fair, though, they'd lost their home and were a little confused...
One thing I admire in them is their absolute artistry in creative punishment; Atlas, for leading a rebellion against tyranny was to hold up the heavens. Our good friend, called Prometheus at the time for some reason, was chained in the Carpathians to a mountain and had am eagle eat his liver - which kept growning back every night - every day until he killed it and escaped. All for teaching the post-flood humans how to stay warm and cook their food! Then there's Sisyphus...let's not get started on Sisyphus!"

Ok, Sisyphus deserved it if any of them did but, still, overly creative and insane punishment. The fleeing nephilim that made it to the proto-Greek states and styled themselves as gods, casting out the others that were already there, were obviously quite traumatised by their experiences on Atlantis. They needed to make others suffer, that certainly explains their excesses and definately those of the 'gods' others became when they landed in distant Mesoamerica...


Struggling Forever Uphill


As an artist looking for that 'big break' - or even a small break, if we're honest - this is how the task feels. For our hubris, the 'gods' harry and challenge us.


I've had my share and I'm sure everyone reading this has. We start this process by learning that we can publish our dreams and, perhaps, have a large number of people read it. We can do this for free and without the complicated process of years gone by. We not only have this but we have a community of others like us (quite a few writers are rather introverted) with whom we can both share our experiences and learn. It's all rather heady and exciting at the beginning isn't it?


You get on, filled with vim and vervour (and other new words you've learned recently) to write your manuscript. Sometimes it just flows and overflows, sometimes it does not, it drips erratically or the pipes get clogged up by some...ah stuff...you can can't quite get at, like that itch right between the shoulderblades most people can't reach. You start to realise that this might be the reason that dreams always take place while we're asleep; because it's far easier that way. Reality, it would appear, hates an optimist.


Let's have a look at some of the reality;


  1. You not only have support, you have competition. You are convinced of your ability, the briliance of your story and tjhe impact it can and will have. You may have poured your heart and your soul into it already or you are about to. One of two things is probably about to happen amd you are likely to dislike both of them. You will receive your first taste of scathing criticism or your first meal of patronising 'good advice'.

  2. There is a rather big world out there. Last count, I saw upwards of 500 writing and writing-related groups on Facebook. Let that sink in. I have seen thousands of new titles on Amazon and Smashwords per month alone. Pitmad Day on Twitter is the day I turn some of my notifications off and leave it to my management tools to aggregate them for me. The moment you realise you're one pebble in a vast avalanche is quite a sobering one. Walking into one of the big bookstores and seeing the quantity of published books is nothing compared to that.

  3. You do not just have your book to write. You have an awful lot more than that to do. You have social media profiles to create and maintain, you have connections to make. You either have to yourself or hire someone to design covers and webpage. You might need an editor. You need to build a readership and decide on a strategy you can maintain in order to do that. All this while working a job, managing your family and life, and trying to get your masterpiece written. That bolder is getting heavier, isn't it?

  4. You're still learning. There are Rules, there is advice, there are guides to read but most of them disagree with one another. The Rules are viciously argued about on social media groups. How to Do Self-Publishing (irony) guides are everywhere. Here's the shocker; this is quite a new market which Amazon blew wide open, it's new to everyone. Not only to us little potential lemmings swarming towards the samw narrow doorway together but to those who think that they might like the taste of lemming.


That will do for now, now let me share what I experienced and the conclusions I drew from those answers. There; I qualified that I am not providing you with THE answers but what I consider to be good answers.


One piece of advice I will tell you that it is vital to listen to if you are just starting out (not a hard-bitten veteran like me with skin that's like a melon's) - It's all just opinion. Nobody you find on a Facebook Group, Twitter stream, Mastodon server or anywhere can actually give you The Answers. The fact that they are in the same place as you means they are, if anything, marginally more successful than you. The people who are in the place you want to be, that of famous author, will tell you that there is no real answer, though they can give you advice if you'd like it (that or, sorry but I'm too busy).


  1. Grow that glossy, melon-like skin like mine. Let's be honest here, writers are rather ego-driven individuals. We can be opiniated know-it-alls at times, I accept these failings in myself but others don't acknowledge them in themselves the same. Some may be quite forceful in expressing their version of things and quite dismissive of others, it happens. I personally, in a Facebook group I will not name, had some users comment only on character portraits etc I posted ONLY to draw attention to flaws or errors. Never did they engage in discussion or provide praise, just criticism. Now I don't need the praise but it's still nice isn't it?

  2. See this as the 2nd job that it is. The Chronicles of Enoch, if searched for in Google and Bing, will bring up predominantly my stuff in the main and image search results. It'll bring up my paid ad too but we'll look at that later. That takes daily work to maintain. I worked out and maintain my website (you need you own domain, there's no way around it), I post to my blog daily, I'm always on social media either networking for plugging and I even work on establishing a Quora presence to add some weight. All of which leads on to...

  3. There is no other way. These days, it seems, publishers see the trends and they see a way to save some cash. If the artist does all the advertising before they take over, they'll just take over and help speed things up. I recommend the use of Social Media Management software such as Crowdfire and Zoho, which I use (more about them later), to help manage the load. You can then schedule and repeat posts, organise all your responses in one place and make it slightly less terrifying. This is all good training because, if you do get famous, there'll be a lot more to do and less excuses not to do it.

  4. Lemmings don't have to jump. Ask yourself this single question; just how famous and successful are the people that are giving you all of this advice? How many books have they got on the NYT Bestseller list (really got them, not just saying it on their cover), how many of their books would you find at Border, Waterstones, or B&N? Exactly so they're just like you. Even the Big's who publish books on writing tell you that all they are providing is a guide, not Iron-Bound Commandments.


The Right Balance


If Sisyphus ever started to get used to his punishment, he'd realise that, no matter what he did, the bolder was going to get infinitely heavier once it got to the top regardless. So why hurry? He was going to get run over my a big heavy bolder and likely killed, he couldn't avoid it. He had to push the big bugger up to the top of the slope no matter what. Eventually, I'd like to think, he learned to pace and balance himself, make Zeus wait for his daily giggle.


I won't deny it, there are going to be days when you think the daily grind has achieved a grand total of nothing and feels like a waste of time. There are days when you'll reach the most incredible of highs only for the bolder to suddenly get heavy and squash you flat on the way down. What matters most is whether you get back up again or not.


Let me share a few of my 'heavy bolder' moments;


  1. Six months after publication of my triumphal series that would change our perception of history as a species and be turned into a TV steries with Kevin McKidd as Alexander, Sir Ben Kingsley as Sham (or Irrfan Khan perhaps would be better) was released, I realised that each book was filled with grammatical and spelling mistakes I had not corrected and that the covers were rubbish. I pulled down NINE books from Amazon but there are still copies floating around out there that are associated with my name. In this age of the internet, nothing goes away. I redesigned some much better covers for them or or improved the existing ones. I've edited just over half of them and will get to the others. Point is, that could have sunk me but it didn't; it was simply Lesson One of a great many.

  2. I tried to do too much. I had a job with an awful schedule which didn't let me access the internet or use my phone much, twin baby girls, wife and other kids....and I tried to run all of this lot, edit, manage a website, upload a YouTube video every Sunday at least, do this, that and several dozen others while worrying about money and how to earn more of it. It should come as no surprise that I wrote those error-filled books between calls in a call-center I worked at, brought my open paper and printed them (no email access etc from work computers), scanned them at home, corrected the OCR errors, formatted etc. them in the scant minutes I was at home and not looking after my kids or helping out. I was interrupted a lot, my train of thought derailed. I would go back to things after a long delay and miss a mistake. Pace yourself, the only deadlines you have at the moment are those you impose on yourself. Lesson Two.

  3. I got permanently and irrevokably banned from Facebook. I had been posting a series of blog articles which I knew were contraversial and likely to annoy some people but hey, no such thing as bad publicity is there? Apparently, Facebook disagrees. Apparently my series of articles touched a nerve or several; so much so that Facebook decided to lock me permanently out the very moment I was trying to share the the third. My finger had just clicked 'share' I kid you not. Click...sharing....oh, look, we found a security problem with your account and need you to verify the code we sent to a phone number you told us you haven't used for years...Lesson Three? Diversify your message and know your audience. Facebook obviously thought I was talking about them (I was but I didn't outright say it) and took exception.


The largest lesson of them all is this, though, DON'T THROW IN THE TOWEL. Things are going to get tough. You need to learn to diversify, to keep pushing and adapting, you have to treat this entire process like the longest job interview of your life.


You will get criticism of both the contructive and destructive kinds; the former to help you and the latter, perhaps, out of jealousy or pure vitriol; learn to distinguish the two and accept the former and bvursh off the latter. You get bullies everywhere and, ultimately, what makes them a bully also causes them to fail. But aware of not dismissing anyone that criticises you simply as a bully as those of weak political resolve do on certain fora.


You need to interact and contribute. Like, comment on, share and praise the work of writers whose work you like. It's like karma, it you do not interact with others, why would others interact with you? You're doing what some people call making friends and, if this is challenge for you, if putting yourself out there is hard for you or causes anxiety, I hate to say that this might not be the path for you. You have to learn to at least make it seem like you're confident about your work when you're presenting it. Only your passion, your drive, your conviction will make this work stand up and be noticed as something worth spending money on and/or dedicating several hours of their life to.


The Kid Gloves Come Off


Imagine, if you, like, the Sgt. Major pacing around you as you stand at ease. He talks to you as he paces, keeping his voice level but intense. He thinks you have potential, he knows you can do better but yelling and threats do not seem to be having the desired effect because his job is to bring out the best in you for the situation. Your job is to recognise that and provide.


We cannot pussy-foot around this part, it would be a waste of my time writing it and of yours in reading it. You are the one that is responsible for all of your failures in one way or another. You can blame circumstances, other people, and so forth but you were there. Perhaps the version of you that was there didn't have the tools to behave any differently but the fact that you survived means you have learned and are no longer that person. it might even be safe to assume that you will not make the same mistakes again. Of course you are human so nothing is guaranteed!


Your work; your art, your writing, your books, your movies, your merchandise, your future dreams; nobody will be responsible for the failure of those but you.


Let's leave that floating there and think about it for a minute...


Who decides that enough is enough?

Who decides you're taking a day off?

Who decides to do this and not do that?


Right. The cat does. Even if you don't have a cat, they still decide everything and I don't have a cat but I was talking about his feet.


Joking aside; no cats, hoss, just you.


So, the question hangs diaphorously in the air....


How badly do you want this?


Conclusion


This is your dream is that not right? Since as long as you can remember, it's been there, a part of you. It is probably one your Top Three list of Most Important Things of all time. Your children and some members of your family might be more import, your pets also, perhaps.


it is important to consider this hierarchy of priorities when considering what we have written and read so far and the two questions that will come next;


If your child was struggling at school would your response be; "ah well sod them, I'm busy/tired/get anxious about confrontation...flipping burgers can present great career opportunities and they get a uniform.."?


If your little pet sweetheart animaly-creature was sick and needed some medical attention although finances were tight would your response be; "bugger that ungrateful drain on money, we can get another one and I bet the kids won't notice..."?


If you would answer positively to either of those questions, I would like to you quietly let yourself out of this blog and never return, the door's over there.


Does your life's dream deserve any less attention? No, it does not because it will fail if you do not put absolutely every iota of your being that you you can spare into it? Would you refuse a reasonable request from your small child for any reason short of being already dead? I didn't think so. Would you leave your little doggie to get all unhealthy and restless because taking him for a walk is too much effort this week? Again no, right?


Book. It's future. You decide. Now.


If things go wrong or not as you thought they might, evaluate, consider, adapt and keep going. If you give up, nobody else is going to do it. Do not use the 'yes but this thing happened' excuse either because I guarantee that somewhere in the world somebody faced that thing and did not let it stop them.


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Alan J. Fisher; Writer and Poet

chronicles@chroniclesofenoch.com