Monday, April 24, 2006

Go Placidly Amdist the Amazon.com Sales Rankings

Geek Alert!

When I was younger, I had an album (actually, two,) recorded by Leonard Nimoy in which he (among other things, including, yes, singing,) read the poem "Desiderata."

The poem has a line that goes like this, "Do not compare yourself to others, for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself." Ah, if only I could listen to that most excellent advice. It would spare me the heartache (and carpel tunnel) of constantly checking my Amazon.com sales ranking and comparing it to that of other writers I know. (And then doing the evil dance of glee when mine is better.)

My biggest problem is that my powers come from the Dark Side of the Force. Fear, anger, and jealousy motivate me, particularly my writing life.

If I may talk seriously about this for a moment. Fear is something I think every creative person should experience. Why? Because if you're not a little bit afraid, it means you're probably not challenging yourself. It means that you're sticking to what's safe.

Jealousy... well, that's just my evil Scorpio nature. When someone I know who is also a professional writer does something I wish I were doing (selling more short stories, writing a better book), I find myself deeply inspired. I want what they have. This desire tends to light a fire under my butt. That can be a very good thing for me.

Anger. There is a part of me that wants very much to "show them, show them all" that I can rise above whatever box it is I feel I've been shoved into. The anger I have over my past publishing life gets turned around into this burst of "you'll never defeat me!"

But compulsively comparing my Amazon.com sales ranking to other writers? Not very helpful.

I know a lot of writers who get get caught up doing this. We try to figure out what it means... oh, look, I've gone up 1,000 -- will I be the next Dan Brown??

I think the reason we do this kind of "reading the entrails" has to do with the fact that so much of a book's success is completely out of our hands. Fate has, it seems, a lot more to do with whether or not a book does well than writing a good one. I know lots of good books (not just my own) which have languished and died for the lack of an appreciative audience. What can a girl do? Not much other than pray for a miracle it seems.

And, of course, dust off her Leonard Nimoy vinyl and listen carefully to the words that begin, "Go placidly amidst the noise and haste...."

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