I’ve been getting seriously despondent about a conversation I keep having. It crops up with different people, about ostensibly different topics, but with the same underlying pattern and the same poor outcome. The phenomenon is starting to feel less like a script and more like a nightmarish creature sticking its pseudopods through hitherto invisible cracks in my life.
One of the permutations of the conversation revolves around this blog. I keep being showered with advice on how to monetise it. If I did A, B, and C, I could see a return on the time I spend on this. If I did X, Y, and Z, I could sell the damn thing and get some decent money. There’s a fundamental problem with this advice: I don’t want to sell the blog. I don’t even want to monetise it. I’m happy with things as they are.
There are three reasons why I blog: catharsis, external memory storage, and because I actually enjoy writing. That’s it. I try to make sure that what I’m writing is accurate because that’s important to me. Sometimes I even try to make it purty. But the bottom line is that I get my jollies out of blathering about whatever the hell I want, whenever I get the urge to, in whichever manner I see fitting; and the day those jollies stop coming is likely to be the day I stop blogging. If any additional benefits result from what I write, that’s grand. However, it doesn’t change my basic motivations. And if getting those additional benefits meant having to give up the reasons why I blog in the first place, that would make the whole thing pointless.
In my head, advice on monetising the blog translates to “here is a list of things you don’t want to do, guaranteed to spoil something you currently enjoy, in order to achieve a goal you have no interest in”. Oddly enough, I’m not inclined to take it.
I have recited the above statement so many times I’ve lost count. Every single time, my interlocutors have responded by patiently explaining to me that I’m wrong; that everything I’ve said is purely a rationalisation, and the real cause of my reticence to get with the program is entirely different.
I’m told that I secretly believe that money is dirty and making some would sully me. That I think I’m not good enough to get paid. That I worry that people would judge me negatively for capitalising on my kind of topics. That I am scared of the possible fallout of commercial success. That I am self-limiting or self-destructive, perhaps pathologically so. The fact that I repeat myself is further proof of the fact that I’m lying; I’m protesting too much.
I routinely have opposite-but-identical conversations about my books. They are not precisely flying off the shelves. I’m not surprised by that: I’m an unknown writer covering specialist and rather depressing topics. It’s not as if anyone’s going to buy that kind of book on a whim, for funsies, or as a stocking filler. I never expected to rake in the big bucks; however, the fact that no money’s coming in means that nobody’s reading them. The books weren’t any fun at all to write, but I had hoped they’d be useful. I had hoped they’d make the world a bit less sucky. It’s not about the money, it’s about what the lack of money indicates.
Every time I say that, I’m told that I’m wrong. It is about the money. I’m lying because I can’t admit to myself or to others that money matters to me.
Lately I’ve been messing about with some fiction, and I’ve been loving it. The kind of non-fiction I write makes my head a difficult space to be in. It’s been a real ball to do something so completely different, to hang out in a completely different mental space, with my ideal imaginary people. I really like my brain on fiction. I want to spend more time there. I also want to get the book out; I want it to exist in the world, because somehow that will make that space and those people more real to me. I’m not sure why that is, and I don’t particularly care. I know it will make me happy, and that’s good enough for me.
I’m told that I shouldn’t publish. That the book needs to change if I want it to be a commercial success. Problem is, that’s not what I want. I absolutely will not mind if it sells – I have a limited income and an expensive comic book habit – but that’s not why I’ve written it, and it’s not why I’m publishing it. I’m world-building for myself; I’m writing myself a place where I want to be. If I have to radically alter the world I am creating in order to sell it up, I might as well not be writing.
Apparently, none of that is true. The truth is that I’m afraid of success. That I’m lazy. That I am so scared of failure that I refuse to compete. That I have a too-short attention span. That I’m trying to sabotage my non-fiction.
These are just three writing-related examples. I’ve had the same conversation about why I like driving decrepit vans; why I do my own building projects; why I don’t dress ‘like a girl’; why I don’t join certain clubs or do certain activities. The list is endless. The topics change, but the conversation remains the same. The people I’m talking too cannot accept that I’m actually telling them the only truth I’ve got; that I’m openly expressing my reality, weird as it may be. That possibility is apparently the wrong shape to fit in their heads.
Every time I have that kind of conversation, I feel like going off to live in a cave on a mountain somewhere with only bears for company. I struggled to articulate why I found that kind of miscommunication – misconnection, really – so cutting, until I found this quote by Matthew Stover:
In your world, people say things to test, persuade, seduce, manipulate, deceive, or dominate others. But this is my world. I say things because I think they’re true, and because I want you to know them.
And that’s it. That is it, and the whole of it. If I say something to somebody it’s because I think it is true, and because I want them to know it. It’s not that I’m particularly honest; I just don’t enjoy human interactions enough to bother otherwise.
Every time I tell someone my truth and they throw it back in my face, that tramples on my hopes for a meaningful connection. It’s not that it makes me think that I’m too much of a weirdo for anyone to truly understand me (I’m forced to share a planet with nearly 7.5 billion people; I’m statistically unlikely to be unique). It’s that it forces me to conclude that one of two mechanisms are in place, neither of which I can stomach.
Option one is that my interlocutors believe that I’m engaging in silly games they wouldn’t play because I’m lesser than them. That I’m talking bullshit because bullshit is all I’ve got. That doesn’t make me terribly inclined to befriend them; overcoming their bias sounds like a long uphill road.
Option two is they believe that everyone plays those games because that’s how their world works. In their world people say things to test, persuade, seduce, manipulate, deceive, or dominate themselves or others; in fact, those behaviours are so entrenched that they can’t even conceive of a different kind of world, where different rules may apply. That forces me to accept that at some point I will likely find myself at the receiving end of that kind of behaviour. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that I just don’t want to live like that.