Thursday, January 17, 2019

Human-sized success.

The one thing about owning a Mom and Pop-sized bookstore is that it is human-sized. It provides a modest living. It requires a fair amount of work and diligence, creativity, and persistence. But it can be done.

I don't think I ever considered owning a business growing up, though if I did, it probably was something like owning a bookstore. If anything, I wanted to be a writer--though I had no idea how to go about it.

I sort of fell into owning a business--because I didn't seem to have any other options.

As it turned out, being in charge of a business was exactly the path for me to take. I was never going to be an organizational man. I feel as if I have good ideas, but no ability to try to convince others of the viability of those ideas. Owning a small business meant I could make decisions without conferring, without compromising.

Of course, I did have to deal with others, but there were enough filters and options that I could pick and choose about how to go about it. I could shape my surroundings to accentuate my strengths and minimize my weaknesses.

All these efforts were enough.

Being in the writing field is different. The above levels of "work and diligence, creativity, and persistence" are in no way enough to reach even a basic success at writing. Success depends on others, more on "luck, on timing, and who you know."

In other words, reaching success is more than human-sized. It has to tap into much larger schemes and structures. Success is a matter of levering, instead of basic skills. It can't be accomplished simply because you want it to happen.

That isn't to say that there are people who don't do it. But even more than owning a small business (which, though human-sized, probably requires an outsized effort), it can't be usually be done simply by putting your nose to the grindstone and gutting it out.

I'm not complaining. It's just interesting the difference in scale. Human-sized, Mom and Pop writing is possible, I suppose. Perhaps if I were able to bring the same level of effort as I brought to the business, it might be possible to bring the huge scale of publishing down to a personal level.

But it seems to me that there are so many other writers, few of who make an actual "modest" living at it, that it crushes mere human-sized effort. It is much more difficult to carve out a middle ground. Anyway, that's how it looks to me.

The writing itself is human-sized. That's the attraction to me. I can do it without "conferring, without compromising."

But leveraging that human-sized accomplishment requires an entirely different set of skills, and requires tapping into much larger scales. With the store, I don't have to do any promotion. I just have to keep doing my job. The job itself is enough.

Writing a book--that's just the beginning.

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