A little clarity on this post (the one about writer's block and success and alla that crap):

It's not people reading my work that caused the pressures I experienced in my writing... It's ridiculous expectations set by me, based on factors I believed I could control.

To quote part of a reply I sent a friend of mine in an email:
"...[The pressures] all came from the avalanche of doubt I personally heaped upon the very unsturdy roof of my emotional lean-to. I went into this project knowing that, if I chose to fight the battles it would take to get my book into big-name retailers and onto big-name review lists, I was choosing certain defeat. When I experienced some very unexpected success, I let go of that fact and made one hell of an unfounded leap, assuming that doubling the efforts I'd expended from November 2005 - January 2006 would give me double the results, selling another 3000 books - and of course, by that stupid, stupid, STUPID logic, if I quadrupled the effort of those three months, I could sell another 12,000 books.

"It's just one of those silly things that makes sense all the way up to when you actually try it. It's like when you baked your first cake and read the directions and thought to yourself, 'You know, if I'm supposed to bake this thing for 60 minutes at 350 degrees, I bet I could crank this bad boy up to 500 and be eating tasty chocolately goodness inside of 30 minutes! Too bad it doesn't go to 1100...'"

I did it to myself. If I'm being kind, I'd say that I got caught up in the thrill of being exposed to more people and selling more books. If I'm being stone honest, I'd say that I got greedy. I got really into the idea of throwing my success back in the face of both the doubters and the industry, who said that a self-published author writing stories about himself on the internet and turning them into a book can't make it in the marketplace.

What I'd forgotten is that I've already made it. I 'made' it the moment the first person I didn't personally know signed up for MI, and I made it again when I sold books to people who didn't feel obligated (out of friendship or kinship, whichever) to buy one to support me. From those moments forward, it is no longer about ME. It's about the project and the community which it has spawned.

Who cares about book sales? Do they accurately describe the quality of the project itself? If so... Paris Hilton and James Frey are genious-level inspirations.

It's not about that crap. It's about having a great time with the people who join the site. The book isn't the next Great American Novel. It's basically a souviner - a trophy of completion of a very, very neat and fun project. It belongs to everyone who joins the site and votes on stories.

Blah de blah blah, so on and so forth. I talk a lot.

But in all fairness, I TOLD you the writer's block is gone... You had fair warning.
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.


The cat is out of the bag. Today is, in fact, my birthday.

I'd done well hiding this fact from everyone at MI all this time. Alas, astute user DannyBoy saw my birthday entered at that abomination of a website, MySpace, and mentioned it in the forums. So, I've gotten several very kind PM's, IM's and emails wishing me a happy birthday, and a few inquiring why I never mentioned it before.

To answer that question, I'll share with you the answer to ANOTHER question by NeverRembemberUserName:

Mentally Incontinent - A Joe The Peacock Book

Sender's Name: NeverRememberUserName
Sender's Email: (withheld)
Message: Hey Joe! Just wondering what the world famous internet author / Wal-Mart terrorist has planned for his birthday! Hope it's rad (and involves screwing over more Wal-Marts)!

Good question, NRUN!

Well, this year, I'll be spending the majority of it watching over Andrea's adopted little brother, as his mother just passed away last Friday. The viewing is later this afternoon (It's about 2:00 AM right now, and I can't sleep, so this is why you get the TREAT of reading this crap). I'll be dressed in a suit and babysitting a kid who doesn't understand what's going on, and furthermore, is slightly more destructive than the Tazmanian Devil when in tornado form. I also imagine I'll somehow run out of gas on the interstate around the same time a Semi plows into the rear of my new truck.

What's that? A pessimist, you say? Well, let's take a look back at previous episodes of "January 24":

Last year, I literally locked myself into my office and watched movies all day in a vain attepmt to hide from the curse of my birthday.

"Joe," you might be saying mentally while sighing, "Come on. There's no way that your birthday could possibly be that bad. You're overreacting. You don't need to hide away from your birthday."

Well, you're right on one count - I don't need to hide on my birthday, because It doesn't matter where I go or what I do - the curse waits for nothing. Later that day, Andrea came home to announce she'd been in a car accident and the sick cat she'd taken to the vet died in the wreck, and THEN I found out my mom had been in the hospital with a bout of congestive heart failure all day. I didn't know these things until late that afternoon because I'd turned off my cellphone and home phones to hide from my birthday curse.

The year before (2004), we took a ski trip up to Cataloochee, NC (which in and of itself could be considered part of the curse. That place sucks) to escape the birthday blues. I broke my thumb while up there. I came home to find out our first appeal to the courts in the lawsuit over my house and the land (we sued the original owners... long story, book comes out middle of 2006) was thrown out. This was at about the $17,000 mark. We appealed again, which cost $500.00, and when everything came crashing down later that year, we'd sunk over $25,000 into the suit.

In 2003, my birthday itself was 'fine' (some naggingly annoying things happened all day, every 20 minutes or so... You know the kind: Death by 1,000 cuts kinda crap). It was the day after that sucked, as I didn't renew my tags and had a terrible day at work, so when the cop stopped me for doing 30 in a 25 (yes, five miles over... he was a dick), I got beligerant with him. Long story short, he impounded the car and took me to jail. Just because the curse waited a day to spring itself on me doesn't make it any better.

I don't think I remember 2002 very well, because I had been knocked out by a falling bucket full of tools which fell from the roof of my house (where I had been squirrel-proofing the attic) and I spent about three days trying to remember my own name.

2001, I don't want to talk about.

2000 was fun because I spent the entire day in an airport. The airline refused to force a woman to put her infant into her lap so I could get my PAID FOR AND TICKETED SEAT. I spent 14 hours with no cash and no credit cards (they were all with Andrea, on their way to Portland, OR earlier that morning). I was starving and irritable when I finally got on the plane, where I was seated next to a very, VERY airsick little boy. His nerves got the best of him while sitting on the runway before our flight and he puked on me (I know, I know, you guys say I always talk about puke, but that's because there seems to be an inordinate amount of the stuff destined to land or come out of me). Then the flight was delayed due to a runway jam. 7 more hours on a plane with pukey-smelling clothing... Happy 23'rd birthday to me!

You get the point.

I've had knee surgery on my birthday, an ankle surgery on my birthday, two funerals on my birthday... I once got admitted to the hospital for pneumonia after my mom let it slide for a week because she thought I was faking to lay out of school during report card time (don't think ill of her... I'd been doing it since I was 10). In fact, the second of seven times I broke my right wrist was on my birthday when I was 19, after some guy attacked me because he thought I was someone else (this 'someone else' apparently took advantage of his sister sexually. It's an extremely fortunate thing that he figured this out on his own, because I was face-down in the middle of a broken and shattered clothes rack at a Nordstrom's at the time and, as hard as I tried, I couldn't really get the words "I'M NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM" to escape the legs of the pants that were wrapped around my head).

A lot of people will tell you that they hate their birthdays... But I've learned how to just stand back and say "ok, what's going to happen this time?" It's literally become an experiment for me. After 2004's failed "hide from the world" experiment, I've resigned myself to the fact that it simply doesn't matter what the hell I do. So now, I mentally stand back and just watch what happens... It's sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic. But always interesting.