You Cease to Be at Peace

Since September I’ve been planning how I want to move my writing career forward. This includes the projects I work on, what I should blog about, and the way I’d like to present myself to the world. Overall I’m trying to be a more positive person. I also want to be an honest person, which in modern times is frequently at adds with attempts to be upbeat and hopeful.

I’d originally planned a book on my philosophy of tabletop design, publishing in my niche, and my business ideology. Less a reveal of trade secrets, more of the thought process that’s going into the decisions that have made me successful. I think that rather than detailing specifics, a paradigm shift needs to happen in how we think about lo-fi publishing.

To date my only concern was tone. Should I be punk as fnck, embracing the defensive and confrontational side of my personality? As in, screw you, I did everything you said was “wrong” and came out ahead, so suck it? Or should I lean into the gentler, Mister Rogers side where I focus on the positive and ignore the haters?

“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

You Cease to Be at Peace

Over the past few days, though, I saw a relatively well-known publisher in my niche speak up. He took to Twitter and said a lot of things that parallel my thoughts. From my perspective, he spoke the truth. I’ll paraphrase a few of his points, all things I’ve said before in this space and on the business site:

  • You can’t make art for art’s sake and expect to make money. You need to pick a goal. Making money requires you to create a product people will want to buy. Groundbreaking works of art and design don’t automatically fall into that category.
  • Every creator has a different process. What gets good results for you might not work for someone else, and vice-versa. There is no universally “correct” way to do this thing we do. Good processes can yield bad results, and vice-versa. Don’t assume 100% causality.
  • It’s human nature for people to engage more with negativity than positivity. Sometimes to get peoples’ attention, you need to tap into that a little bit. I.e. you shouldn’t support my problematic competitor, support me instead.

Remembering the Problem I’m Solving For

As you could expect, this did not go over well with the internet. He suffered the death of a thousand cuts. Some people had valid points. Others resorted to whataboutism, blowing up exceptions as if they represented the rule. Standard Twitter argument stuff. In the end he walked things back, did the “all points of view are valid” thing, and apologized.

To which I say A) the complete lack of a business plan is not equal to a carefully considered, well-researched business plan, if only because your goals are so vastly different that you cannot equate art and commerce; and B) I no longer want to write the book I’d planned to write.

This is me, acknowledging that my ideology isn’t a product consumers want. This is also me, wanting to preserve my mental health. All I want to do is make things without pointless drama. If that means not sharing some bits of wisdom and keeping my opinions to myself, so be it. Sometimes you cease to be at peace when you’re just trying to help.

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