Man, have I had a frustrating day. Spent the better part of it beating my head against two things I’m not particularly good at: computer stuff, and graphics. Both are related to my current effort to get some items in my writer’s trunk out of the trunk and into the world of Kindle books. I’m excited about the prospect. I’m excited at the thought of making literally tens of dollars off some of my old work. But there are problems…so many problems.
In order to use Kindle (or any e-platform) effectively, you have to reformat your work to make it e-reader friendly, and while there’s tons of software and tutorials out there to help you do that, it helps if it’s something you have half an aptitude for in the first place. Which, well, I don’t. I mean, yeah, I can point and click, and I’m not afraid of computers. Heck, around my house I’m known as technical support. But any computer operation of this sort requires a lot of finagling with details, going back and trying again, reformatting, repositioning, recompiling, reposting, re- re- re- crap! That stuff comes easy to some. For me…not so much. And when I realized how much valuable time – writing time – I was spending on the effort, I decided to subcontract the project to the sort of people to whom that stuff comes easy. They don’t charge much…but it’ll keep me that much farther from profit on Kindle.
Now the cover. Man, I see the cover. I mean, I see the fricking cover in my mind’s eye. I see the type face, I see the graphics, I see my name in bold, the title, WORLD SERIES OF MURDER, I even see the little banner down at the bottom that says, Includes the Novella SURF LAS VEGAS! Trouble is, visualizing the cover and actualizing it are two very, very different things. Again, the tools are at my disposal – Photoshop or an incredible simulation – but mastery of them eludes me. And it’s ludicrous to think that I can learn how to use these new tools and produce a professional-looking cover at the very same time, on the very first try. I didn’t expect that level of achievement with my first book – a learning experience if ever there was one – why should I expect it of my first cover? Still I engaged in the aforementioned beating of head against hard object until my head began to ache. And when I realized how much valuable time – writing time! – I was spending on the effort, I decided to subcontract that project, too. Again, the costs are not so high, but…well, I’d better have a damn Kindle hit, that’s all I’m saying.
Which brings me by roundabout means to the title of this post, “Let’s Have a Pity Party.” Because, frankly, I could use one right now. I’m feeling terribly sorry for myself, and I’m feeling like a failure and quite blue. Why can’t I Kindlize my own works? Why can’t I make the pretty pictures? My rational mind tells me to remember that there are some things I’m good at and some things I’m just not. My reptilian brain says, “Screw that! I want to be good at everything!” And I want to be that good now!
I used to play guitar, you know. And sang. I recorded a folk(ish) album back in the 1980s (and if you want to explore a deep, deep artifact of my assorted past, you can stream or download all the tracks for free right here). I traveled the singer/songwriter circuit for five years until I realized that there were two things I couldn’t do particularly well: sing, or play guitar. So I stopped. I stopped beating my head against that wall and focused on what I was good at: writing.
I’m trying to invoke that moment of life-changing insight now. I’m trying to invoke the old standby, “Love what you do – if you don’t love it, you won’t do it well.” Well, I don’t love computer stuff and I don’t love graphics, and that’s okay. The thing I love – my job, my passion, my calling – is putting words on the page. Yes, I have a responsibility to market myself, because a writer whose words remain unread is just the sound of one hand clapping. And yes, I have a responsibility to make myself better, add new skills and talents, and just generally grow as a person. But I don’t have to drive myself crazy over this, and I don’t need to have a pity party just because I can’t get the stupid fricking table of contents to align right, God damn it!!!!
Instead of a pity party, I can have allies. I can find people whose strengths complement my own, and let them make the most of what they’re good at to help me make the most of what I’m good at. Sure, it costs some money…cuts into profit…but is money really the point of the exercise? I don’t think so. I think the point is to use new opportunities (such as Kindle, the blessing and curse of today’s wordsmiths) to defeat the sound of one hand clapping…to let our voice be heard.
And hey, how about this? That record I made back in 1985? It existed only in vinyl form for twenty years before getting a second, digital, life. Who can guess how the work we’re doing now will be repurposed and re-exploited in a generation from now? Just because I can’t make the most of today’s tools is no cause for despair. Life is long, and new tools are always just around the corner. I’m not saying you need to stay abreast of every technological change that comes along (I can’t, you can’t, nobody can). I’m saying focus on your strengths, and make common cause with others who can share theirs. And stop beating your head against a wall that has a door in it. That’s how we get past our questionable choices (singer/songwriter, JV? Really?) and it’s how I’ll get through this pity party now.
Image courtesy of Eclipse of the Heart.