Why I’m Thinking of Leaving Amazon

 

Each of us are given a constellation of gifts. We do not get to choose what these gifts are. We do not have to like them – and maybe you will spend years being petty and angry about not getting the gifts you wanted. For example: I wanted to be a scientist, but I was not given the gift of mathematical intuition. I spent years training to be a physicist, and you know, I can force it, but it’s exhausting because there’s no true inspiration behind what I do. It is entirely manmade. Artificial. Artifice. Only after deciding to cultivate a gift I was given – that of being able to write with honesty and intensity – only then did I begin to see my purpose. I also got another gift that I initially spurned, but it is the perfect match for my writing: I am good at testing software. Testing provides for my financial and creature needs, and in a physical, material way supports the transcendent gift of my writing – transcendent because it is the thing I am meant to give back to the world. Trying to force the mundane and the spiritual into the same pen was a lot like my years playing at physicist. It was a pointless fight. I’m finished.

If you read my last post, you know that I’ve been trying to live by some monastic principles. I’m paring back the noise and replacing the question of “What do I want?” with “What is right for me to do?” I see now that there are very few things I must do:

  • Love my fellow man and practice compassion.
  • Be a faithful wife.
  • Write.

Part of my spiritual quest has been to be deliberate about where I spend my attention. I can choose to spend my attention on gaming the publication system, or I can spend it quietly growing into who I am meant to be. I can choose to focus on the superficial, or I can choose to dwell in the numinous. I can keep trying to figure out how to monetize my literary gifts, or I can be grateful I don’t need to figure that out because I have another gift which intersects the realm of commerce. For all of these reasons, I am considering pulling my books from Amazon, and making them free on Wattpad, Smashwords, and my own site, oddskybooks.com, where three free stories are available now. I just need to find the time to make the transition, probably after my ten-week craft class is over, because there is a lot of behind the scenes effort that goes into such a shift.

I keep thinking of the monk who is purported to have written the Codex Gigas. The Codex is three feet tall, weighs one hundred and sixty pounds, and was written longhand prior to 1295. We know almost nothing of the author other than the remarkable fact that he spent somewhere around twenty-five years working in probable isolation to produce this book. This was an act of faith. I have a feeling he understood the production of the book was never about him, and that his glory was in the act of responding to the call he was made to answer. I want to write with that purity. I want to be absent from the intention. That is humility. And again, it is faith. Someone will point out that the colloquial name for this book is the Devil’s Bible, because of the legend that the monk supposedly made a deal with the devil to write the entire 160-pounds of it in one night so as to save his own life, and also because there is a rather cartoonish illustration of a devil included amongst the pages. Maybe that happened. The picture of the devil-thing is real. However, literary forensics indicates the quieter story, the one of plodding decades of anonymous writing. I think also of Murdoch’s The Book and the Brotherhood (someone help me here! I think that’s the book I mean, but Mudoch wrote so much!). After a character’s death, someone goes through the deceased’s desk and finds thousands of pages of gorgeous poetry, the sort of work that could have brought fame. Murdoch’s point is that there are pure ways of creation that are abstracted from the communal shouting match. Can I be humble enough to stop even secretly hoping my writing will make me visible to the world?

Leaving Amazon is in alignment with my beliefs, although it is in stark contradiction to the clamoring voices who are telling me that’s not how the game is played. I’m choosing to focus on quiet and contemplation. I have faith that the people who are meant to find my stories, will. If no one is meant to find them, not even one person? That’s not up to me, either. My calling is to write and to share; my calling is to practice compassion; my calling is to be steadfast in my relationships. I’ll be a good wife, a kind stranger and, maybe someday, truly become the person I’m meant to be.

As ever,

-aniko

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When Broccoli Isn’t Enough, Read Murdoch!

The most difficult thing to accept is your own truth.   The further that truth is from what you envisioned, the greater the difficulty .  In my case, I wanted to be a physicist.  I worked very, very hard to be good at the math underpinning physics.  In Calculus III, my Professor said, “I hope you are better at physics than you are at math, because you are very bad at math.”  Then she gave me a piece of raw broccoli to help me think.   I still associate broccoli with exhaustion, struggle and triple integrals.

Although I was bad at math, I was very good at tenacity and I graduated with a degree in physics.   I took what I thought would be a short break from academia and got a Job.  I moved to another city, got another Job, got married.  Years passed and I decided I was ready to go back to school, but only part time.  I took one semester of Classical Mechanics at the university closest to my Job, then applied to a school with a more rigorous program and… they accepted me!!!

I signed up for two classes.   I found a good spot in the library near the physics section and took up residence.  I got to my Job before 7 so that I could sit in traffic for an hour after work to get to school so I could spend another two hours listening to a professor so that I could even begin to attempt the assignments.

I was miserable.

One night after class, I sat in the library with stacks of math and physics books opened on the table.  I had pages of half-finished problems spread out around me in accusation of ineptitude.  What I understood, I could not put into math.  What I understood was very little.  I wandered away from my desk and ended up in the fiction section. I spent the rest of that evening looking at the books, wanting to read all of them. The next afternoon, I returned to school, but did not go to Quantum Mechanics. Instead, I went to the library, checked out a novel, and sat in a garden to read until it was time to go home.

The novel was Iris Murdoch’s FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER. The first line?  “It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when Annette decided to leave school.” Simple as that, I realized I wanted to read more than I wanted to solve equations.  The next day, I dropped both of my classes.

The realization and the act of following through was terribly frightening.   A fundamental piece of how I defined myself to myself was simply gone.  Months passed with me in some limbo of non-self;  all I remember is gray, and the feeling that I was behind a thick pane of glass that blunted everything and kept me from the world.

Then I wrote my first short story.

It had all the grace of a dingy paperweight, but it was mine in a way that physics never was.  I shared it with a friend and he saw something in it.  He saw me, a writer.

 

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