Sunday, August 16, 2015
Not to Get All Philosophical, But...
When I was in college, I loved my philosophy classes probably the most. If you don't know much about John Stuart Mill, he was a British philosopher who wrote extensively about liberty--mostly political stuff I wasn't all the interested in. No, I don't agree with a whole lot of what he said, but one John Stuart Mill quote has remained in my mind since I was in my 20s. It is shortened here (because Mr. Mill liked to write REALLY long sentences). He said: “... happiness… was not a life of rapture, but of such, in an existence made up of few and transitory pains, many and various pleasures ... and having as the foundation of the whole, not to expect more from life than it is capable of bestowing.” Sounds a little bleak, I know.
To me, he is saying there are limits to what you can expect because, well, you are human and circumstances are not completely in your control. Simplified and taken out of context, but that's how I chose to interpret it. I faced my humanity this past week after the disappointment of missing the NY Times bestseller list for the first time in five years. See, you will always hear the truth from me. I tell the truth in my books and share who I am with the world. Sometimes disappointment is just around the corner and will smack you hard. It's one of those "transitory pains" that Mr. Mill spoke about. It will tarnish happiness. But it is to be expected.
Were there 18 other mass market paperback cozies released from my publisher alone this month? Yes. Did Amazon choose to discount 14 out 18--deep discounts, mind you--in its price war with other folks who sell books? They did. Was my book one of those discounted? No. But my good friend had the same circumstances and she made the list. I am very thrilled for her, but the other consequence of this perfect negative storm for me was that it sent me into a downward spiral and I could not write one word on next year's book for days. I am an emotional person and I took this very hard. Harder than I should have. My editor always says she cares nothing about lists, she cares about long term sales. Still, it made my heart hurt and sent me hunting for all those wise words from people far smarter than me who all seemed to have lived a long time ago. Smart people often help me right my crazy ship.
It is okay to be disappointed, but I did nothing wrong. Books are like babies, after all. They take a long time to grow big enough to be born, they require much care and feeding and love. Does this mean I love my baby--I mean my book--any less because it didn't do what I expected? Of course not. This was a lesson I needed to re-learn. It's called humility--or as the wise man said, "...not to expect more from life than it is capable of bestowing."