The Chicken or The Egg

I’m sitting here listening to a playlist of mine called Fave Thoughtful which essentially consists of slower songs that aren’t as easy to sing along with as my Fave Sing Along playlist.

(I have a ridiculous number of song playlists. My original Faves playlist has 150 songs on it so I decided to break it down a bit more since moving from Thugman by Tweet to The Only Time by Nine Inch Nails to Another Suitcase in Another Hall by Evita is a bit jarring.)

(Below that Fave list I have a total of 43 “like” playlists that combined include 2992 songs at the moment. I have a bit of a thing for music obviously. Anyway.)

It made me realize something odd.

I have a large number of songs on my favorites playlists that I’ve loved for ages. Since I was maybe even a pre-teen. (Kenny Rogers was my favorite singer when I was eight. I remember crying while repeatedly replaying Islands in the Stream during my first big breakup in 3rd grade.)

Long before I had any life experiences that would make me choose those kinds of songs, I loved songs like Spilled Perfume by Pam Tillis and We’ve Got Tonight by Kenny Rogers. Songs about failed love and yearning for lost relationships and choosing the wrong person and loss.

I can now, later in life, tie actual life experiences to some of those songs. And I’ve definitely come to like newer songs because they remind me of a past experience, but for me it was often the songs that came first, not the experience.

And it makes me wonder whether it was some weird sort of predisposition of mine that made me gravitate towards those types of songs and then those types of life experiences. Or whether those songs created some kind of emotional groove in my mind that then led me to seek out those experiences in my life. Like if all I’d ever been exposed to were happy songs about getting married and living happily ever after for fifty years if that’s what I would’ve been drawn towards instead of hitting the road and moving on.

I don’t know. It’s an interesting thought.

And I think this does tie back to writing in some sense, too.

I’ve been reading a lot of new-to-me authors recently and some fit comfortably because the main characters react in a way that makes sense for me whereas others make me almost itchy to read because I keep thinking, “No. Why would you do that? That’s stupid.”

Or wrong. (I’m still angry years later about the character who could see the future and saw their friend being destroyed by drug use who then started using drugs with the friend. Like, what? What are you thinking? You can see this person will destroy their life this way and you…help them do it? Huh?)

I know going forward that I’ll end up reading more from the authors whose characters’ values and decisions fit with what makes sense to me and less of those who don’t which then ends up reinforcing the whole circle of values and beliefs and perspective that I already had.

This is also why I don’t think every author is for every reader and that to succeed with fiction you ultimately have to find “your” readers who are those who align enough with what you write that they stay with and return to your stories. The key is finding those readers, of course.

And now I’m going to stop writing this because while I’ve been writing it Smoke Rings in the Dark by Gary Allan, A Couple More Years by Dr. Hook, I Don’t Need You by Kenny Rogers, and now Not Gon’ Cry by Mary J. Blige have played and I think maybe I need therapy based on my song choices. Seriously.

 

Possibilities vs. Probabilities

As you might have noticed, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about writing success and what counts and what doesn’t and what’s realistic and what isn’t. That’s what happens when I reach a big milestone. I’m kind of go, go, go and then I hit it and I stop and assess.

So Thursday I went to the monthly writers’ group dinner that I attend and I shared my little happy milestone about grossing six figures and one of the guys said that’s a really rare level to reach, like that was sort of an anomaly and be all, end all. Nowhere to go from there.

My response was that, sure it was hard to hit, but I compare myself to the people netting six figures a year and so all I think of is how far I still have to go.

That’s guy’s response was that it basically wasn’t possible to net six figures a year at this because only about 1 in 10,000 people manage to do it.

My response to that was, well, why can’t I be that one in 10,000?

(I’m pretty sure everyone at the table was like, who would think that highly of themselves that they’d even image they could be that person?)

But, see, that’s the thing.

Just because something isn’t probable doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

Yeah, so most people fail at this. Seen and understood. Witnessed. How many people have I known over the years who wanted to write a novel and never wrote the first draft? How many wrote the first draft and never wanted to edit it? How many tried to get a trade publisher, didn’t manage it, and then quit? How many self-published and then quit when they didn’t have instant success? How many are still publishing and not seeing success?

It is unlikely to see a lot of money from publishing books. I will agree with that 100%. It is not probable that any given author who sets out to make a lot of money writing will ever reach that goal.

But it is absolutely, 100% possible to do so.

Can anyone do it? No. I don’t think so. I think some people are just not in a position mentally or life-wise to make that happen. I think some people are just never going to click with enough of an audience to make it happen.

But it’s possible.

I realized then that that guy reminded me of my grandma. In the sense that my grandma, every single time I talk to her and every single time she sends me a card (and she sends lots of cards, bless her), tells me to “be safe”.

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been getting that message from her for over forty years now. Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.

Why not say, “Get out there and take some risks.” “Be adventurous.” “See if you can fail today.” “Do something you’ve never done before.”

But no, it’s always “be safe”.

Because she, like the guy who said these things to me, lives in the world of probability.

It’s a comforting world. If you don’t exceed what’s likely to happen then it’s easy to say, “well, this is how it is for everyone, right? I didn’t make it because most people don’t make it.”

But the possibility mindset is very different. It says, “If one person could do it, why can’t I? What makes them so special that they can succeed where I can’t?”

The possibility mindset pushes through. It keeps driving for the goal when the probability mindset is ready to sit back and admit defeat.

Which one is smarter? Probably the probability one. It’s why I hope my friends with good jobs who’ve worked steadily at them for 20+ years have a guest room with a nice couch when I finally crash and burn. But it’s the possibility mindset that has the potential to achieve what no one thought was possible.

Two interesting ways to frame a problem if nothing else.