Mental Spring Cleaning #1: The Old System

If you grew up in the earth was flat paradigm era…you get to the edge of the sea and fall off or worse face monsters transitioning to the the earth is actually round is not easy much less smooth. That the day started out Sunny and now it is raining and requires an umbrella; that’s easy to adapt too. Unpacking/rejecting paradigms, spitting up kool-aid, facts from fiction…so much emotional and intellectual work. Yet I cannot continue to carry earth is flat ideas into my future. This is my mental spring cleaning…

Growing up——pre-internet, pre-social media——The Plan was to make an excellent living writing. Yes: despite the odds, maybe in spite of the odds.

Books at first then work my way into Hollywood and later Marvel Comics: The Plan was simple and fun. The ongoing fuel of this powerful trajectory was of course bestsellers: that’s how you make Big Money. The Stephen King way to fame, fortune, storytelling, Hollywood and comics. This was a viable plan with built in naps!

The Old School method to publish a book was to secure an agent who would then peddle your books and pimp your talents to publishers.

I didn’t like this system: I didn’t agree with it nor did it make sense.

You’re adding a middleman who is going to take a cut of your small pie. Financially this makes no sense. Even if you factor in how well an effective agent executes and is the reason I have a pie in the first place.

But first you had to work to get to an agent, some sort of nebulous qualifications of being published, marketable and I dunno what else. Same silly paradox as you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience if you don’t get a job. Remember that one? So annoying!

Hustle to secure an agent or hustle for myself and spend that time marketing myself, writing, making contacts etc. I can’t do both; not well. It’s not easy to be drafted by the NBA but at least the path is clear as is the work and sacrifice involved.

Then finally when your agent gets you into a publisher the publisher may not be keen on supporting your book; you may be on the guest list and you can pass the velvet rope but don’t expect bottle service!

I’ve no issue marketing my book but a little help would be…well; helpful considering I’m marketing a book that’s the exact size and format of every other book in Borders/Chapters. What an idiotic system.

Why would I subject myself to that…to all that frustration and failure? And it’s not that I am special or I believe I am Steven Above The Law Seagal. Rather like high school calculus I wasn’t presented with a compelling reason to justify committing to this system. This all felt and came across like a “Because I said so!” parental command. (Also acceptable: “As long as you’re under my roof you’ll live by my rules!”)

12 publishers passed on Harry Potter. 12. 12 publishers who failed to spot talent…maybe they had a bad day or perhaps a wise editor recognized the value and pushed for it but was unsuccessful. These stories don’t inspire or deepen my confidence in The Old System.

It doesn’t matter how successful or rich Harry Potter became after finding a proper home it still had to endure The 12. I’m frustrated and I’m not submitting the book!

Today I’m using a blogging platform with a Publish button…how utterly cool is that! The desperation, the frustration of attracting attention…that made The Old System feel like a beauty pageant while not entirely eliminated is much reduced. Happily so. Uber hasn’t totally replaced cabs…it’s just another option along with public transportation. To have that many options now…to reach the destination is freshtastic.

It’s like clicking on Google maps…do you want to reach your destination by public transportation, walking, car? How do you want to get there. The Old System remains; even if the gatekeepers have far less influence and status.

I recognized I couldn’t embrace the future until I’d released the old way I was brought up. I had to let go of the earth is flat, there is only one way to get published. That freedom of thought, of business makes me so nimble. It’s incredible and intoxicating. This new perspective presents the future as a wide open expanse…like when you move into a brand new home and the future isn’t in the rooms. The rooms can feel so large yet full of potential: you can do anything, paint the walls any colour, arrange the furniture. Amazing.

I want to do more mental spring cleaning!


Also published on Medium.

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