In Life or Publishing, We Call the Game
October 10, 2012
I, perhaps like you, ponder often these days on how we writers can create the readership and sales we need. Yesterday, I was comparing a small sampling of indie publishers in the Kindle Store Top 100 Best Sellers (paid), looking for commonalities that might explain their presence there. Well, I have to admit, I ended laughing.
No one was doing what I had assumed we must do: blog often, tweet lots, or have a website to capture followers. I am not being critical of them. Rather, it suggests how perplexing book marketing has become almost overnight, with its horde of writers and readers showing up at the gate of the only major franchise in town. It’s a new game, even for this life-long entrepreneur.
There have been plenty of new games in my life where I faced a problem that I had no idea how to solve. In my early years, it resulted in much foot-stomping, whining, and frustration. It took time for me recognize that two eventualities continually presented themselves in all such cases. The first was that a solution appeared. The second was I could never figure out how. And though the solutions were characterized by a lack of logic or reason, you couldn’t argue with the results.
Such results do, however, need one more element. You must reach a place of heart where you know beyond all doubt the solution will arise. That’s called intent, and intent is the sole directive in the creative process. Since we set the intent, we indeed call the game. In a strange twist, it’s not ours to solve the problem; it’s ours to commit totally to the promise of its solution. And I’ll tell you, I’m a believer; I’ve seen it happen too many times to sideline myself in skepticism.
My farming years provided the bellwether example of this uncanny way in which the universe works, if we’ll just do what’s ours to do and leave the rest to what we inappropriately refer to as fate. I farmed in the era I described as the agricultural equivalent of the last of the Mohicans.
Interest rates were topping twenty-eight percent, fuel had quadrupled in cost, and lamb prices had dropped ten cents a pound. In that historically enduring sector of society, even suicides occurred. And yet we endured. Our financial picture defied all reason. Our net income of the preceding three years was unarguably too small to live on, yet there we were. My partner and I stared, speechless at the bottom line, and shook our heads.
We never did figure out how we were still on the land. But what I realized in retrospect was: we had called that game. Years earlier, without a hint of doubt, we agreed we would make it; and that we would produce a world grand champion ram to boot. Logically, both were unlikely, but we managed both. So in times of stress and confusion, I would suggest you apply yourself to shoring up your intent, until you are sure there is no doubt left. For that’s how creative we humans truly are.
There is a wonderful story my husband tells, and I’m using it to close this piece. It occurred during an interview by a top sports commentator of a well-known retiring professional umpire. The umpire had had a long and distinguished career, so it seemed almost an afterthought when the commentator asked one last question. He turned to the ump and inquired, “Do you have regrets about any of the balls or strikes you called?”
The umpire smiled in a knowing way, his answer a profound truth about how our world works. He said only this, “No, because they weren’t balls or strikes until I called them.”
This I know. We call the game. And if you would like a life of less angst and no regrets, I encourage you to know it too.