Crisis Revelations. Mining the Dregs of Resolve.

Crisis Revelations. Mining the Dregs of Resolve.

Seeking Inspiration
Seeking Inspiration

I am on the cusp of change. Not yet sure in which direction but I thought I would capture the essence before I lapse again into plodding without looking where I’m going.

‘If you want to be successful, you have to pretend you already are’

Ever been told to put on your dancing shoes and caper towards the camera? Metaphorically speaking?

I have been made brave by Viv’s blog (Zen and the art of tightrope walking) in which she questions the virtues of stoicism (the full-English in approved ‘attitude’) to venture onto my own high-wire, and examine the world that has another set of unspoken virtues- the approved conduct of the ‘indie author’.

All Indie Authors should consider the stoicism implied by a dreaded word ‘Authorpreneur.’

 Before I get onto its entrenched edicts I shall have to define why, right now, I feel defeated and why this post sets out to invite contributions, commiserations and perhaps even solutions? (Hint I intend new coherent, focussed, valuable… something.)

So: Many things have contributed to my small crisis: (See, there is stoicism showing its petticoat- it feels pretty big actually)

Putting it Behind Me

After two years of close attention to the world of marketing, web design, IT mastery (well, moderate self sufficiency) blogging, guest posting, commenting, reading, reviewing… I have recently been told I have left no tracks in the web sand- in short I do not exist.

(The kind SEO searcher who discovered this offered a consolation. ‘At least you have not spoilt your first impression. You have not made one!) He disabused me of believing anything Google said, (because Google is a big stroker and would have me believe I have made veritable waves for fully three pages) and suggested I asked duckduckgo instead. Sure enough, his point was proved, I do not exist.

Branding

Like a wayward young steer I need ‘Branding’, or I will never be welcomed in the herd. It is not the books that matter but the branding of the author. ‘Think of things others would say if asked to describe you?’  Well aside from the obvious (and why should I offer insults gratis? Mine could be auctioned to Save the Children )

All suggestions here, or here, or here…

(Look ma, no genre?-The art of the unpopular?- Believing five impossible things before breakfast? Delusions of Hercules?)

Problem is, my daughters aside, how would they know without reading what I write? Or being able to find me when I don’t exist? Or even digging out (up?) the recluse who lives in darkest Somerset and could not embark upon a series if it bit her on the bum and chased her to the gate.

(Aside:I do have an idea for a fabulous TV series and I have cast Bill Nighy in the lead-he’d relish the role and yes do feel free to contact him.)

Wrestling with this for months I decided to turn aside and join NaNoWriMo for some creative distraction. Yes I finished the outline of a novella, (did not even limp to 50K, stopped and laid down its plot at 48K) and it offers a skeletal outline but one so world weary that it needs to live on spinach for a year. WHY? Because it now joins the list of the next books that will be unfound and unread.

Going Round in Circles

Looking at the Optimist- see it smiles and wears a hat in halcyon days
Looking at the Optimist- see it smiles and wears a hat in halcyon days

So no escape. Circumnavigation of the central problem. How to wave without seeming to, the mastery of the sleight of hand. Finding they who are already searching?

Caution: They would not imagine such a book so would not be searching. If they fell over it they would say …………………………(Feel free to improvise in the comments)

Hence back to the first subject-Stoicism.

It seems to me we Indie Authors are signed up to these ten commandments (plus one) Nobody showed me before I signed up. Bastards.

  •  Thou shalt anticipate author hood by building a solid platform (before you have any    hooks to climb it, spiked shoes, or a windcheater for the long winter’s blast.                Intentions are two a penny, solidity speaks.)
  • Thou shalt acquire a tribe of ten thousand followers on Twitter and Facebook ( But without a book available? Stick to cakes and recipes-you can crib those.)
  • Thou shalt exceed the traditionally published authors by being better written, better dressed, more adventurous.(Safe here, nobody will find out one way or the other)
  • Thou shalt write works with a keen eye to the market you have already seduced. (Do cakes and recipes foster an interest in evolution? Baking is a busy business.)
  • Thou shalt master the Amazon category minefield.(It may not anticipate the category you have been adventurous with. Write nicely to Amazon with suggestions.)
  • Thou shalt produce at least a book a year, and preferably in series.(Latest sure fire-winner- of- 1000 signatories- a- month advice: ‘To accumulate an email list give away your first, follow with a gift of the second a day later, in order to hook a readership for the many to follow. Sorry forgot to mention you must start in your twenties, or write three at a time. (‘Note to Self: Remember to bar anyone over 65.)
  • Thou shalt find the money for editing, and cover design and they shall be exemplary examples of what is already in abundance and look good in a thumbnail. It’s all anyone will be likely to skim past.
  • Thou will understand the sprinkling of keywords and have an ear to the ground of SEO so that though wilt play harmoniously without banging anything- strictly strings.( How about scored for base trombone, viola and a snare…)
  • Thou shalt persist in offering something of value to acquire a mailing list that will be susceptible to thy next offer and thou may post many portraits of yourself  behaving as though chased by papparazzi lest we forget your name. Tip: Be photogenic or at least ‘interesting’ Drag? Indecent? Rear view?
  • Thou shalt not deviate by questioning these precepts, nor challenge them but thou canst always give up and drop out.
  • (Thou wilt not be missed.)

    'Just a little further' he said. Left or Right? Sorry- didn't quite catch.
    ‘Just a little further’ he said. Left or Right?
    Sorry- didn’t quite catch.

The Clamour of the Daimon- Motherhood

The Clamour of the Daimon- On Being a Mother

(Quilting Daughters)

Russian Fish Pie for supper!
Russian Fish Pie for supper!

The child is father to the man, each ensures
The safeguards to their hungers…
The correction of residual crimes…
Denial of appetites outgrown…
The shaping of their talents
Offers incense to the brazier burning
On the altar of mankind.

(Involution-An Odyssey…)

Blogs are supposed to have a focus. Mine, seemingly wide-ranging, is all allied to the book, Involution. A Book about Everything that needed all my living to supply its vocabulary and much of that living was motherhood. In this, like all mothers, I had to feel my way, and thereby come to encounter my daimon’s determination to wrest control.

My last post focused on my mother, and on being a single daughter, an only child.

As a perceptive comment to that post noted, everything recorded presupposed the book recently published; the early and necessary independence, into which a whirlwind experience threw everything into the air, rearranging all the components of life and leaving little but a bloody minded opposition to coercion or conformity. In every way I had to start afresh. In relation to motherhood one central pinion anchored resolve, the perception of what failing her daimon had led to in my mother, bitter regret. My inopportune arrival blighted my mother’s life, neither her fault, nor mine; a fact nevertheless.

Being inopportune, always too early, has been a constant. This book was conceived forty five years ago, forty years too early for its acceptance.  A better acquaintance with my daimon probably needed the necessary dislocation provided by time’s brake. It and I had an argument to undergo first. James Hillman’s extraordinarily powerful book ‘The Soul’s Code’ has helped put it all into perspective. Character finds wider cracks through which to enter as we age. The daimon or occupying genius (the active element of Soul) in each of us struggles against the distractions of middle age and of parenthood. It snakes its way through impediments and often disappears, reduced to a few remembered dreams, the inexplicable impulse, or sudden blinding shafts of recognition.

Between the book’s early failure (with two small daughters in tow) and its recent incarnation more motherhood intervened. That also required the mastery of house building, mixing mortar, carpentry, drains and daily doing at its most basic. I had flown too close to the sun, melted my wings, and fallen, badly burnt: the discipline of motherhood would re-connect me to ordinary life. It was the re-education necessary to render the sun a softer and more benign presence threaded on quiet days, sliced and apportioned by welcome oblivious nights of exhausted sleep.

Stone Crop, dereliction and one cold tap
Stone Crop, dereliction and one cold tap

 

Father doing Time. One day a garden.
Father doing Time. One day a garden.

 

 

 

 

 

The re-education also introduced a new realm of experience that would prove to be necessary to extend my vocabulary into architecture, design, music, the hunger for time to read and on being servant to necessity. The last was probably the most important.

In talking about my mother, I reverted to memories, and she, now safely dead, would be unable to correct them or to argue and be unlikely to feel aggrieved.  I feel I can count on her sympathy. Not so with my still very alive daughters. They would be mortified to be identified, and they have daimons of their own, refusing to be pinned, so I must confine their existence to what they did for me.

That seems sufficient, because I intend to examine the effect of both my childhood and theirs on the conceiving of a book. It is creativity at its broadest that draws upon everything, emotional and psychological, academic and philosophical, each intricately facets of the same enquiry. Who am I? Why am I here? Why did I come through that portal (my mother) or give birth to that child?

What shall I do with all this experience before I depart?

My own mother’s tight-lipped stoicism, which made my very existence a burden, had led me to take a vow at about sixteen. If I ever had children they would know, because I would share with them, all things: anger, impulse, confusion, and impetuous affection. Words would not be withheld. I would never have them say, as I had, ‘I would rather you beat me than stay silent, why won’t you tell me where or in what I have failed?’

If I had children I would also have more than one; they would have each other: An insurance against my own shortcomings.

I struggled to unite my four daughters in what I believed was a single family. Therein lay my failure to understand that unity requires the consent of all, to each. Much later I had to accept that I had two families, severed by the father of the first, whose refusal to include the second split us, as though with an axe. The father of the second family accepted all, in an almost saintly indifference to distinctions between his and another man’s children.

Daughters Part One

My first marriage had yielded two daughters, so different from one another they initiated the most essential lesson

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

(Kahlil Gibran- The Prophet)

The first at ten months walked away, escaped any lap, shunned hugs and kisses, threw herself into deep water, climbed up dangerous heights. She needed nothing from me, except the freedom to be left alone and watched from a distant eye. She asked for very little, gave very little. As an ingénue mother I mistook this for precocious advanced development; hurrah for independence!  Her sister was the exact opposite, needing a great deal of affection, constant reassurances and encouragement. Honing maternal skills required flexible adjustments between these extremes, one impervious, one hypersensitive, one over confident, one with only tentative questions.

The second, faced with living on a building site developed obsessional cleaning instincts and domestic virtues that manifested before she was ten, binging home the bacon for Thursday night suppers on her bicycle after ‘cookery’. She created order where none seemed to exist. Her sister, immune to labour, simply disappeared into a caravan where she painted her nails and revised for examinations in which she was determine to excel, and if possible exceed. Her fierce competitive instincts were equal to anything, from scrabble to chemistry.  It took her no time to persuade her father that her academic record would be much assisted by boarding away, away from the cold tap and the portaloo amidst the nettles. He obliged with alacrity. My vow needed pruning. Neither was like me, nor sought what I understood.

The refuge from labour.
The refuge from labour.

With both the vow was inappropriate. That is the hell of motherhood, you only have one to sample from, and without siblings you start completely un-apprenticed, learning only from sometimes serious mistakes. My mother was not ‘typical’. No mother is. She had taught me by default; I had been peripheral to her life, my children would be central and know always that they were. Pendulums are never a reliable pointer, but the circularity of existence is invariably reduced to the swing between extremes.

My oldest daughters did not want to know anything about me, but I had set a course of candour (hatched from my childhood of silence) and took much too long to realise its penalties. I lost both of them; not immediately, but later, when all that candour backfired and I was so very clear as target. Their father stripped me of them utterly, knowing how central they had been in every aspect of creative life. He waited until late adolescence with all its insecurity and resentment made them vulnerable to persuasion.  His revenge was served very cold, and wrapped with foreign travel and few returns.

They left, one for university in Africa, the other for training college in Switzerland and never looked back. I had served my purpose, with all the tedium of schooling, housing, homework and transport. Holidays had been treats with him, in exotic surroundings like Costa Rica, Kalahari or Galapagos. Half of my family were always severed from the other half, by money and partisan affection. While the older two were camping on beaches, or on film locations the second family stayed home and played with the dog or tolerated a Yucca plant as perennial pricking wicket.

Overwhelmed by labour and literally putting a roof over heads I failed to see this divide widening. The experience which had set in train both my divorce from him and the book took many years to develop its consequences, to alienate my children from me and from each other. I had complimented myself on a successful and benign divorce, (he and his new wife stayed with us occasionally) but instead merely provided labour and education, enabling him and his wife to live well under canvas, or in remote places without available schools, until his daughters were old enough to leave me without proving an imposition.

Self deception took a long detour, through illusion and dogged determination, but even this provided its salutary lesson; that one daimon (mine to foster unity) is powerless against another that preferred disunity, and could exploit every argument to make its case. The devil has all the best tunes, for sure.

 

But I had been offered a second chance ( to be continued).