The Perspective of Hustle

I have returned from the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, but I’m relatively certain I left my brain under one of the presentation tables somewhere.

As always, the conference was awesome. In the classes taught by the fantastic speakers I learned several new skills to drop into my ever expanding writer’s tool-box. In the bar I had several meaningful, occasionally enlightening, conversations, and had plenty of opportunity to mingle among friends, old and new, and rejuvenate my love for the craft. I drank more than was wise, and ate more than was healthy, but enjoyed myself from the time I arrived to the time I left.

As much as I learned – and the amount is significant – the new knowledge I gained pales in comparison to one thing I was lacking: Perspective. And I got that in spades.

As I’ve discussed before, I am not a patient person. I want too much, too soon, and am inclined to pull a snit out of my closet when the mood strikes me…which is often. I easily grow discouraged by my own perceived lack of success, and I’ve been known to stamp my foot like a child who has been denied a lollipop. In speaking with other writers (most of them far better, and far smarter than me) I gained some valuable insight into what their lives are like.

A storyteller I admire a great deal, is CC (Chris) Humphreys, whose most recent book, A Place Called Armageddon, sits among my favorites. Chris describes himself as a mid-list Author (he makes a living from his writing, but doesn’t drive a Ferrarri or buy and sell people like heads of lettuce), and is much further along in his career and his craft than I am likely to ever be.

I had an opportunity to speak with Chris, and talk about his most recent book tour(which he also discusses in his blog, here) in which he traveled several hundred miles for a book signing and have not one person show up. Not one. At all. And he’s famous.

During a keynote speech, notable science fiction author, Robert J Sawyer, who has won every science fiction award known to man, told us that it takes only 5000 copies of a book to be sold in Canada for it to be considered a bestseller. Despite the fact the requirements for bestseller status are so low, very few books ever make it that far. If you, as a Canadian Author, he said, sell 7000 copies of a book, you are exceptional. If you’re published with a small house (like me), and you sell 300 copies of your book, then you have something to be very proud of.

When I heard such tiny numbers I felt myself absolutely deflated. I do not write for money (and if I did I would be living in a cardboard box and eating out of dumpsters), but I still have hopes of one day being able to retire from my day job and make a living from my craft. If these authors, who are so much better than me, are struggling with book signings that no one comes to and dismal sales numbers, then what can I, an uneducated goon, really expect from this writing life.

The answer: Nothing.

I can expect Nothing at all. But I can strive for much.

Instead of allowing what I’d heard to pull me down, I forced it to push me up, which is what they intended anyway. Even though Chris had a vacant signing, he is still telling the story with a laugh and making a good living doing what he loves. Even though it only takes 5000 copies of a book to make a bestseller in Canada, Robert J Sawyer is winning awards across the world, and giving up his time to try and help us do the same.

What I learned from these men is that the numbers don’t matter. They don’t matter one little freaking bit. What matters is the writing. What really matters is the story. What really matters is that we hustle, and strive, and keep working on our craft.

“Your story might not matter to everyone,” Robert Sawyer said. “But it is going to matter, very much, to someone.”

With these words in mind I am making a commitment, to both you, my friends, and myself, that I am going to work more and worry less. I am going to produce more stories and less excuses. I am going to focus on what is important, and forget what doesn’t matter.

With the conference done, a new year of writing is upon us. It is time to put down the pouts and pick up the pen, and get some shit done.

Let me know if you want to tag along.

10 Comments

October 23, 2012 · 4:43 am

10 responses to “The Perspective of Hustle

  1. I am in! haha. My book released last tuesday, and I am awaiting my order of copies to start my own failed book signings. Very glad to read this because now I know not to get too down if/when some of them fail.

    • Marlene Anderson

      I once volunteered with an organization that had fundraisers where we had to sit in a mall and sell tickets. The fellow I liked to get teamed up with was the salesman to end all salesmen. He had more nerve than a canal horse, to borrow a phrase from a friend. He would call people over – loud and proud – and seven times out of ten people would buy. I think when it comes time for me to sit and count the tiles, I might look him up. Maybe he’ll rent himself out. On the other hand, maybe I can learn how he does it.

      So, Eric, how far from home do you intend to travel?

      • that is all going to depend on demand i think Marlene. I am going to see how some of the local ones go, and decide from there. I already have one planned for about 170 miles away, but I lived there for years and have a large group of friends asking me to do it…..I will be more than happy to accept payment and mail signed copies to people that are too far away. haha

  2. Great post – we never write for the money, but spend far too much time promoting for very little return. My first book Ghostnapped is sitting at about 800 copies sold, my second Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist is at about 200. Guess I am doing pretty well! I feel so much better after reading this post, in fact I am very proud of my efforts! Lets all keep writing because that is what really matters!

  3. “It is time to put down the pouts and pick up the pen, and get some shit done.”

    Love this! Here’s to getting stuff done!

  4. I think “put down the pouts and pick up the pen, and get some shit done” just may be a contender to replace “This Day We Write” as the SiWC mantra. Miss you, xoxo, M. Pam

  5. Karen

    Rob is wonderful. One of the reasons why he does so well is because he’s out there, blogging, social media-ing, doing the fairs, cons, etc. He makes himself available. His books are great, but his is definitely right about one thing. One’s books will mean something to someone, if not for everyone, and that’s okay dokay!

  6. Marlene Anderson

    First of all, I’m delighted to have met you face-to-face at SIWC. You’re even more interesting in person than through your blog – and you’re a pretty fascinating creature even just through your written words.

    I will forever have that image of your great description of wrestling with unsavory people – eeww…naked! sweaty! Make sure you give that same kind of description of a run-in like that in your next book. Geez – that was vivid. I repeated that story to Wayne when I got home and he broke up laughing. Those of us who handle keyboard, pens and machines never think about what the daily job FEELS like for those who are dealing up close and personal with the flotsam and jetsam of society. Bring that experience along in your books. (maybe I speak too soon – I’m only just starting your book) Give us something we will never realize for ourselves. A great sign in our local library, I’m sure you’ll have seen somewhere in your travels, “we read to try on someone else’s life.” Well, I want to try on the life of a mountie at the molecular level, the gut rending fear, disgust, black survival humour the TV shows don’t show us.

    Enjoying your book thus far, I hung up my own keyboard last night and opted to get into your story instead. I’m thirty pages in and you’ve introduced a character I was not expecting. So, now I’m even more intrigued, the interest quotient really bounced up. I’ll keep you apprised as I progress through the story.

    I missed you at the book signing – I was looking for red! You looked splendid when you went up on stage Sat night. The whistling and cheering made me expect to hear shouts of ‘take it off!’ Those women were a little rowdy.

    Marlene

  7. Yup, tagging along. Terrific post, Tyner. The story really is what matters–how do we let our perspective get so skewed sometimes? This: “I am going to produce more stories and less excuses.” I love that…and I may adopt it as my theme this year. Thanks for that!

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