When I was first learning web programming, one of my instructors told a story about a wealthy man who had petitioned several web designers to make a website to advertise his ultra-expensive sports car. All but one of the designers immediately began going on about their great ideas for the site but a lone designer said he didn't think the man needed a site at all. The other designers were not happy to hear someone say that but the lone designer was not thwarted. He asked the customer about the target market for the car. Essentially, it came down to a very small number of fellow elites. The designer said that instead of paying for a website, the man should be targeting those few elites through direct contact. Instead of a website, the customer ended up with a brochure that was sent directly to these elites. The point of the story is that just because you can doesn't mean you need to or should when it comes to web design. That principal holds true in all areas of life but I hadn't made the connection until I was dealing with my blog the other night.
Wordpress works great for many many people. It is probably the most pervasive set-up on the web right now. It automates most tasks and comes with the options of all sorts of bells and whistles. Thing is: it's a Lamborghini when I need a tricycle.
After having to purge a back door infection of one of the word press themes, I realized that I spend more time maintaining wordpress than I do posting to it. For people who post daily, have multiple contributors, and vocal followings that demand a comment section, it makes total sense. For my brain fart postings that happen a few times a year, it makes no sense. Funnily enough, spending less time maintaining word press might actually give me the time to post more and that got me thinking about my writing generally.
For months, I have been contemplating my sites and their purpose and my goals as a writer. I never thought it would be so difficult trying to figure out my goals. There are a million blogs, podcasts, TED talks, and books about success and they always focus on how to achieve your goals. What happens when you have no idea what those are? Even lectures intended to address that very problem often don't.
The problem is a hell of a lot of "should do" messaging surrounds us all the time. This isn't a problem if your goals and the "shoulds" are in sync but when they aren't, it creates mental sludge. One of the reasons being indie appealed to me so much is the creative freedom yet the "should" messaging in the indie world is rampant with marketing and business tips, how to build followings, acting like a professional, writing advice presented as an infallible formula for sales, and endless information simply because writers write, so of course we write about writing. You would think being indie was about running a business and not writing books. That's because it is, if you are intending to make money, but what if you aren't?
All these "shoulds" made finding my goals feel impossible but if I took out all the things I felt I had to do, I could get to what I wanted, just like taking the word press out of my blog let me see its purpose had nothing to do with marketing or building a following. I realized I am not nearly as interested in what I "should" be doing as I am in what I want to be doing. I want to feed my soul more than I want to make money but the "shoulds" out there tell me that if I publish, it must be for money. The goal is to make money. Anything else is failure. Despite the fact that my goal is to write (money or no money), I worried that maybe I was tricking myself with such thoughts because I am not a bestselling author. The "should" says anything less than a bestselling author is a failure so perhaps denying that narrative is just a way of soothing my own ego. This existential crisis has been going on for a year and the arguments in my head were mostly cyclical with little nudges that tried to disrupt the spin but never quiet succeeded.
I know quite a few people in artistic industries, some more conventionally successful than others. I have seen what that form of success has done to their lives and watched what fame means for how one moves in the world. Even modest fame makes me shudder. I have never wanted to be famous. I just want to write but it wasn't until that minor virus on my blog that it suddenly clicked. I was not deluding myself, at least not when believing my goals had nothing to do with money. If anything, believing I had to keep focused on money was a delusion, a destructive delusion.
I don't do my blog to get attention and promote my work. I post because a thought occurs and it needs to be followed to conclusion and exorcised from my head for me to move on. I don't maintain a website because I am trying to promote myself. I do it because I enjoy the exercise of coding and experimenting with design. I don't add features to my eBooks because I think they will increase sales. I add them because I have found out how to do something neat. My motivations are the furthest thing from business that you can get. None of my wants in writing include money. Business gives me migraines and publishing for money is very much a business. Only now do I realize it doesn't have to be, not for me. The benefit of being indie is that the only person forcing me to do anything is me.
I have no problem with people trying to make a living from writing. None at all. Just like I have no problem with professional cosplayers who are hired to work Comic Cons.
Not all those cosplayers are professionals though; some are amateurs. Despite that, some of those amateurs have such a devotion to their hobby that their work surpasses even the professionals. Someone (sorry, I can't remember who!) said on Twitter the other day that we have to stop conflating amateur with low quality. I think that's true and I think being guilty of that myself was actually why it took so long for me to realize I want to be an amateur writer and not a professional writer. I want to do this for free and for fun but that doesn't mean I want to be lazy about it or not try to improve my craft. It doesn't mean my work isn't as good as someone who charges for it. Ultimately, it comes back to this: "can" does not mean "must".
Bill Waterson said, "To invent your own life's meaning is not easy but it's still allowed and I think you'll be happier for the trouble." This has always resonated with me but having so much trouble sifting through the world's definitions of success prevented me from truly understanding how I could apply these words to myself. I think, more than ever, I am closer to it at least for now.
I want to enjoy myself. I want to share what I write just to share it with anyone who wants to read it. I want to experiment with my designs and art and not worry about marketing my "brand". I am not a brand. I am Tara and that's all I want to be. Maybe that will change as I grow and the world around me changes. Maybe I will one day develop a passion for business and choose to explore the world through the lens of an entrepreneur. I have no idea, but for now, I just want to have fun being me.