1.31.2006

I quit.

I'm done with the business of writing books and short stories. It's over, and this is my official resignation.

There, now that that's done... I can get back to my favorite hobby on earth: Writing books and short stories.

You see, there's not been a new story on Mentally Incontinent for nearly 6 weeks. There hasn't been much written here on this site during that time, either. And if you go back and look at the schedule of my writing on MI, starting in 2002 (when I started really writing the site) and now, you will notice that, as I wrote more stories, the time between posting stories grew larger and larger.

This is because, over time, the process of writing stories became less and less a hobby of mine and more and more an obligation. It became a job - albeit, one I love dearly... One I want to be my full-time career, 100% of my life. And it's so, SO different from my actual career of writing software. It's something I actually enjoy doing, which is really why I did it. And the idea that it could actually become my career... That's just a dream come true. A dream I dream so deeply that I began working harder and harder and harder to achieve it.

But I lost something in that process - the enjoyment of writing and posting stories made way for the work involved in writing and posting stories. I still wrote because I loved writing, but there was also this added element of fufilling an obligation. I HAD to get another story up, if only to get the book further along. And even though this new motivaiton was a natural result of people liking what I wrote, the reason I wrote began having less to do with the pure, unadulterated thrill I get when people read my work and respond to it and more to do with keeping to schedule... With keeping people coming to the site... With getting the book out.

The passion was leaving (not entirely gone, mind you... just dwindling). The process was becoming more about mechanics than about organics.

Then, it came time to close the book and actually get it laid out, designed, printed and out the door. I have to tell you that the actual process of putting out the book was one of the most fantastically brutal things I've ever been through. I loved every single ounce of pain and torment I experienced (and there is a great deal of it, espeically when you're REALLY bad at editing your own writing like I am). I learned more in a period of 60 days about one single subject (creating and putting out books) than I ever have on any subject at any other time in my life. And it was beautiful.

And then, the orders came. And they came. And they came. Far more orders came in than I'd ever imagined would - And as of right now, a little over 3,000 people have purchased and, for the most part, enjoyed my book. And yes, this is a fantastic thing, a monumental thing in fact. It's a yardstick by which to measure my success, and the results of the measurement told me that I'd woefully underestimated myself and the project - which gave me a huge amount of motivaiton...

And that's where things really went south.

As books sold, I became more and more interested with the most natural and normal aspect of any writer's career - selling more books. I became obsessed with promotion and increasing sales. I pushed very, very hard to get my book into more retail outlets, online retailers, etc. And I began asking everyone on earth to review the book and post said review on their websites / in their magazines / so on and so forth. I did the one thing I swore I wouldn't ever do - I began to care too much about the "success" of this book. My motivation became fueled by something far different than what actually started me into this whole writing thing in the first place.

This fact dawned on me sometime around 7:32 PM this evening. I was on the phone with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Bill Doty (from BrokenNewz.com - the guy who wrote the forward to my book) and he asked me why it's been 6 weeks since I last wrote a story for MI. "Busy, I guess," was my response.

"Yeah... I guess," he replied. But then he asked me if I've been any busier the past month than I ever have before in my life. And of course, I answered "yes," as if I believed it. I told him about work, about book signings, about the death in the family... I told him all about the things I put in my own way which kept me from focusing on writing a new story. And as I was navigating the tenuious paths filled great details of varying length, trying to explain why I haven't written a new story, he stated very simply, "You've lost the love, man."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"The love. You don't love it anymore."

He began reminding me of a time back when he first met me, when I had around 200 members on my site (which, I can honestly tell you, was about 100 more than I thought I'd actually have when my book came out... Who knew???) and he was doing several million hits a month in traffic on his website - FAR outpacing mine. He said the one thing that really made him admire me was my total lack of concern about traffic and numbers and whatnot, and the fact that I wrote because I genuinely loved doing it. And he then said, once again, that I'd lost that love that made this entire project worth doing in the first place.

And you know what? He's right.

It's a lot like the love of anything else (especially between people): The harder you try, the more it escapes your grasp. Anyone who's ever found true love will tell you that the moment it happened was the moment they quit trying and just relaxed. And the reason why is because the more you chase down love, the more misguided you become, running down the wrong roads thinking you know what the hell you're doing. You end up becoming lost, wrapped up in a maze of what you THINK love is all about.

The second you take a breath, look around you, shrug, and decide "You know what? To hell with this. I'm just going to let whatever happens happen," you flip this fundamental switch within yourself that states, both to yourself and the world, that you've finally decided to give up chasing dreams and ideas down the wrong roads and instead, live your life and enjoy the process of doing so.

It's only when you stop trying so hard that real love can even form. And that's pretty much where I am with this writing thing.

I've been pushing against brick walls, trying to convince the watchtower guards that I'm worth letting inside their gates. I've been begging and pleading, asking every webmaster and radio host and magazine reveiwer (whether I know them personally or not) to check out my book, trying to make something out of my book which it was never, EVER intended to be. I became caught up in the process of kicking the ball down the field and lost sight of the goal.

So, as of tonight, I quit.

I quit caring about reviews, I quit caring about retailers, and I quit caring about sales figures and exposure. This is not to say that I don't care about selling books - I care very much about selling books... But I care MUCH more about getting a book into the hands of someone who wants it and much LESS about becoming some sort of hit with a mass of people. I care much MORE about getting into stores and doing readings and signings to meet and entertain awesome people and I care much LESS about getting into stores to get my book "out there." I care MORE about the people who actually enjoy my books (and website) and I care LESS (MUCH less) about those who would tear me down for their own gain, be it personal enjoyment at the fact that they insulted me in public, or publicity (however minute) from digging deep into my writing to pull out it's heart and throw it as far as they can into a sea of meaningless opinion.

And yes, I'm still selling, signing and shipping books from my site. Only now, I don't care how many people order. I just care how many people enjoy what they order.

I want to thank everyone who's supported me, from the beginning all the way until now. Your support is the reason I do this thing in the first place, and I am a silly, silly person for losing sight of the fun I have when I make you laugh. But I've got it back now... So watch out.

And just like that, the writer's block is gone.