Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Momentum (an IWSG/Indie Life post)

Back when I was in college, my best friend got married... um, actually, that happened several times. The pattern tended to be

  • get best friend
  • best friend meets girl
  • best friend marries girl
  • best friend moves away
  • repeat
  • (Yes, I got to play groomsman four or five times.)
Anyway, my best friend got married (this was the last of these to happen before I finished school). Someone gave him a refrigerator, I think? Some large appliance, at any rate. Maybe it was a washer and dryer. It doesn't really matter; just insert whatever large appliance you prefer into this scenario. Something that was too big for one person to easily handle. So, yeah, he called me to help him move it. (Yeah, it was used, whatever it was.)

It's important to note, at this point, that I'm a pretty strong guy. I have often been the friend that was called to help people move things or whatever because I was the strongest person they knew. So he called me. Not a problem. You know, the whole best friend thing and all. Well, plus, the only other person we knew that was good at that kind of thing was notoriously flaky about actually showing up to help out with things he'd said he'd help with (to be fair, it wasn't always his fault (but that's a different story)).

We went to the place, and we loaded the thing. He'd borrowed someone's pickup truck for the day. It was a mid-sized truck. White. No, the color's probably not important, but I do remember that, and I think I ought to get in all the facts that I remember, right? And we drove to his new place. A little house he and his brand spanking new wife were renting. Wait, forget that spanking comment. I rather doubt they were into that. Look, I knew the guy, not you, and I'm pretty sure that was not a thing for them, so just drop it, okay. I'm sorry I said anything. Sheesh! Minds, people!

What I should have said, anyway, was that we tried to drive to his new place. We got into viewing distance of his house, maybe 150 yards, and... the truck died. See, there was a rise in the road to accommodate the railroad tracks going through, a rise the height of which was only, maybe, three feet, and the truck couldn't make it over. We hit the hill, the truck made a weird noise, shuddered, and stopped... for just a moment, before it rolled back the short distance it had gone up. If only we had known that it wasn't going to restart, he could have jammed on the brake, but we didn't know, and it wouldn't start.

I am not a car guy.
Neither was he.

But we could see his house. And the truck was in the road. So we did the kind of thing that you do when you're young: We pushed the truck.
Or, rather, I pushed the truck. Because someone has to have a hand on the steering wheel, and the most help that that person is in a situation like that is that he is not in the truck. I pushed the truck... UP the hill. Yeah, I hear you saying, "But you said it was only about three feet high," which is true, but that was the height, not the slope. And, if you remember any of your geometry, you will understand it when I say that the slope was considerable.

So I pushed a ton (or more) of wheeled metal up the hill while my friend kept the truck going straight, which it didn't want to do, and I thought I was going to die. You know Sisyphus?
Yeah, it was like that. Okay, so it wasn't quite like that, but it was like that. All I could see was the back of the truck, the road, and my feet. I had no idea how far I'd gone or how far I had to go. It was just move one foot in front of the other and do not stop.

Why not stop? Because, as we already noted, unless someone was able to step on the brake (and no one was in the truck at this point, remember?), the truck was just going to roll back down again, and I was sure if that happened that I wouldn't be making a second attempt to get that truck up the hill.

So it was one step and one step and one step and sweat dripping everywhere and my shoulder and cheek on the back of the truck, the cool metal on my cheek, and my hands pressing and one step and one step and one step. And breathing. And trying to breathe. And one more step. And not knowing how many more there were but knowing I couldn't stop and one more step. And one more step.

And that is what all this self-publishing stuff is like sometimes. You push and you push, but you can't see how far up the hill you are (you don't even know how long the slope is), but you can't stop -- I've seen people who have stopped -- because you will lose all your momentum, your uphill momentum, and slide back down to where you started and, at best, have to start all over again. All over again. At best. I've seen many people that have not, at least at this point, started again. You have to push and push and keep going and keep going until...

Eventually, some small eternity later, I pushed the truck up onto the top of the hill. The pressure disappeared, and I almost fell down. Then there was running to push the truck down the hill and get it going as fast as possible so that it would coast all the way to the house. Which it may have, I don't remember. What I remember is nearly passing out and laying in a cold sweat on the couch while my friend and his wife asked me if I needed help. When I recovered, and I did recover, I got up and helped move the hunk of metal from the back of the wheeled hunk of metal into the house.

A lot of writing a book, publishing a book, is just like Sisyphus, just like pushing a big rock up a hill all by yourself. If you're lucky, you may have someone that can help you steer your rock (or truck or whatever) so that you, at least, stay on course but not always. At any rate, it all comes down to the hope of hitting the top of the hill so that you can finally quit watching your feet and the ground and take a breath or three. One of the really solid things I've learned, though, since I finished my first book and started this blog is that, once you start, you can't quit. Well, you can, but it frequently will mean that you have to start all over at the beginning again, start gaining momentum all over again. Until you hit that peak (hopefully only the first of many), you have to just keep going, so you have to be prepared to just keep going. One step. One step. One more step.

This post has been brought to you in part by the IWSG and Indie Life.


  1. I couldn't agree more. In fact, sometimes (often) that 3 ft incline seems like Everest, and hanging out at the bottom, gazing up into the clouds, is so daunting I don't even want to start. It's gonna be murder. Do I really wanna do this? NO!!!! But I do it anyway.

  2. You're right - you'll never get over the hill if you stop. And if you stop, you might've been within inches. So close...

  3. You make it sound so fun!

    First, impressive feat of strength, there. Hercules has nothing on you. (Hercules is the movie we are repeat-binge-watching this week, so it is much on my mind.)

    Second, you're right -- and even more right about the Sisyphean task of indie publishing: every goal you achieve seems to evaporate, at times: you get a good review, or sell some books, or interviewed, and then nothing.

    It'd be easy to get discouraged. In fact, looking at the paragraph, I am discouraged. I'd better go read your essay again.

  4. Momentum can be both a horrible curse, and a wonderful gift. I think your story does a great job of illustrating that it's not just the momentum that matters, it's what we do with it.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have this image of spanking burned into my imagination that I think I need to write out. LOL

  5. My god. You are superhuman. Great analogy for momentum in writing as well.

  6. Great metaphor, not just for self-publishing but for writing in general.

    Maybe call a tow truck next time. :)

  7. Self-publishing is very freeing too. I kind of like it. Hey, if that rock rolls over the top of you on its way down, I'll help pick you up out of the dirt so you can go and do it again :)

  8. Great story; beautiful metaphor. This is my favourite start-of-2014 post so far, because it's the most inspiring I've read.

  9. Lexa: Don't wanna do it but don't not wanna do it even more.

    Alex: It's the not knowing that's the hard part.

    Briane: Yeah, the boulder ends up back at the bottom everyday. What's up with that?

    Rob: Until we pass out. heh
    That has nothing to do with spanking.

    Rusty: Well, maybe at 24.

    Tonja: Oh, yeah, now, totally.

    Michael: Oh, I like it. I certainly don't want to mess with traditional publishers.
    And thanks! Helping hands are good.

    Elizabeth: Thank you. I'm glad to hear it.

  10. Love it. Now if that isn't true, I don't know what is. And dang. You are a strong guy. Any chance you can come move my...

    Kidding, kidding.

    Kind of.

  11. Oh how I love your analogy posts. As someone who has helped The Engineer move EVERY large appliance a house needs, into our house, by ourselves, I can totally relate to this so clearly. As a former gymnast, I was very strong, until the whole smashing my wrist to smithereens part happened and now I can life ten pounds, doctor's orders and when I cheat, I know it, and regret it. But we never had to push a truck up a hill...
    I like the idea you left at my place today about making definitions. I like being in charge, and from what I've gathered of you, so do you, so I think we should appoint ourselves as the Road To Ultimate Authordom definers (TM) (Briane can help us with the (TM) part) (and I'm open to suggestions about the name of course. Partners is partners and all that.)
    And of course you're awesome. I even tweeted that. Couldn't find you on Twitter. I got dragged there by the A-Z team, but have really only started flapping my wings and trying to call out recently...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  12. Crystal: Hey, you fly me out to Florida, and I'll move whatever it is you need moved.

    Tina: Well, you know, my mom made me move a piano upstairs (a lot of them) by myself once, when I was around 12, so I'm sure that helped prepare me.

    I am not on twitter, but I am about to be. I have decided that this is the year; I just haven't gotten to setting it up, yet.

    Elizabeth: Thanks! I saw that!

  13. Yes, writing is a lot like Sisyphus. The only difference is that once we get to the top, it's a new idea that rolls down the hill instead of the old one. Although if you have a truck, it would help to make sure it was in good working order :)

  14. I love your story. I feel like I've been pushing that truck a few times this year but at least I didn't get run over.

  15. This is a fantastic post! So true, you can't keep pushing. You'll stall, you'll slip, but you have to keep pushing until the damn thing moves.

  16. Oh, I loved this post! I think from now on whenever I'm struggling I'm just going to envision shoulder...legs...truck...hill! :)

  17. keep on truckin'...up that hill...great advice!

  18. Inspirational post, Andrew. On a side note, YOU ARE THE MAN for being a guy who helped people move stuff. I've relied on strong guys like you before to help move my couch-from-Hell. Hated that couch, but couldn't seem to let it go. Anyway, hope you got paid in $$, food, beer, something.

  19. Jeanne: Well, it wasn't -my- truck.

    Susan: It's important not to get run over.

    E.J.: Yeah, don't let it stop.

    RG: Awesome!

    Tammy: Although it works better if you can find a downhill.

    Jessica: You know, I don't actually remember getting anything out of it. But I wasn't doing it to get paid, so it was all good.

  20. What an image. I could feel every step you made there. I new there was a reason I didn't write. Until I started associating with writers who blogged, I thought it was so easy, write, publish, sell. What a joke.

  21. Jo: Amazingly, most people do think it's easy to write, like you can just sit down and whip out a book in a few days. That's probably why people don't want to pay authors for their work.