Struggling to put it all together

Lovely walk after dinner last night, along the banks of the Sto:lo

OCD sucks. I mean, it's nice to add another layer of understanding into the mental mix, and have some clarity about what drives me underneath it all. It's a source of stress, though. Identifying a source can help show you how to deal with it, but it's not a solution in and off itself.

It's a given that to have success as a self-published author, you need to find and connect to people who will enjoy your writing, and want to read what you write. This differs from writing something that many people will enjoy and want to read. It requires that you work to reach those people, because how else are they going to know you exist? Magic only occurs in fiction, unfortunately.

Ideally, I could go traditional, and have a publisher just take everything I write, edit it just so, and handle the marketing. I don't think my writing has enough marketable appeal for that, though. And even trad authors still have to work to maintain a social media presence.

It's not I mind having to do that work, it's that as a person with OCD, the constantly changing algorithms gives me anxiety. I can't control anything, I can only do my best to predict, aim, and let go. Because I want control, I am looking at all the different channels, reading all the current strategies, and trying to weigh the pros and cons so I can build a unified approach. Which doesn't exist.

In my day job, I work with the biggest and most successful companies in the world. Often I'm reviewing their social media and advertising campaigns against their results and identifying problem areas. Because of this, I am seeing the sea change take place. Online advertising has been dying for a while, and the giants like Facebook have been working to kill it in the interest of short-term profits for some time now. I see the successes and the failures every day, which helps me identify patterns.

As an aside? That old trope about needing to be smart to succeed? Once you stop cherry picking your preferred anecdotes, and just look at what the people do who make a lot of money? You get a much better sense of how raw luck is the major driver. And no, you don't have to be prepared with all of your skills to take advantage of it. The reality is brutally different.

My quandary is how do I find people who might enjoy my writing, and how do I keep them interested in what I'm doing, in a way that I enjoy. Because success or failure, if I don't enjoy it I will not do it. And it needs to be something I'll keep doing regardless of success, because the pleasure of doing it is going to be my reward for still being alive when I'm older and have been doing this for decades.

Clearly, I enjoy writing blog posts. But that's not a medium most people consume anymore, nor is a platform that is amenable to reach. Facebook is the only social media platform I really use, and it's sharing my posts with fewer and fewer people. Nothing personal, it's their algorithm. They keep tinkering it to direct attention to the more popular posts, which means shunting away the less popular posts. I'm always amazed what happens when I click on a friends profile, and see how many things they've posted that I've never seen.

I should, to get the reach I need, post more frequently. I should imitate the top posts, and post on Tiktok and Instagram. I should start a newsletter, probably via Substack. I've got a Patreon. I've got twitter. The tools for success are all out there, and like everyone else, all I have to do is start using them the way they are intended to be used.

But they won't be there much longer, and by the time I get up to speed it might be too late. And it certainly won't be worth my efforts in terms of personal stress. It's quite amazing to me, as an early IT pioneer, how much we've failed hard at community. We've found ways to provide the veneer of community, but it's a thin layer of emotion and gamification hits, with no meet at the core. We feel a success, but only because it has been designed to make us feel that way, not to deliver the reality.

This has been true all the way back from the days of mailing lists, BBSs, Usenet and forums. Social media was better at faking it.

It's because community is a process, not a product. And there is nothing out there that I've found that respects and supports the process.

Always hope for the next generation of internet, though. It's a new thing in the world, and even though it changes fast, it will change and grow. Even it's current stagnation into a few big names was always predicted and expected, as was it's already happening fall. What's next is going to be new.

And in the meantime, I've still got to find a way to fit myself into the current products. But at least I've got some time. The way things work in the market right now, I have no product that is worthwhile until I've gotten at least another two books written, and that's a year into the future.

As the old saying goes, who knows what can happen in year? Maybe even a horse will learn to talk.

Randy Packer

Randy Packer