Magic beans and the meaning of life
Be the hero of your own story

A few emails ago, I wrote "you can't let yourself be defined by what you fear, or by what you enjoy. You can do more. You can be more."

I only realized yesterday that this advice was probably influenced by a 6th century manuscript by Boethius called the Consolations of Philosophy. It's a little known text which has had a massive influence on Western Literature, and especially Paradise Lost (which itself is one of the most influential books in history).

Boethius writes,

"Whosoever quakes in fear or hope, Drifting and losing mastery, Has cast away his shield, has left his place, And binds the chain with which he is bound."

It might seem strange to lump fear and hope together, but it's because both of them are passive responses to life's uncertainty. From the history of civilization, there have been two main responses to existence. Either, THIS, or NOT THIS. One is the Buddhist ideal of acceptance through non-attachment. The other is the Faustian impulse to change, to strive, to desire. These have also been called the left and right hand paths.

Western civilization began with passive acceptance, through the virtues of humility. Pride and ambition were seen as sins; selflessness was the goal. That changed, in no small part due to Paradise Lost.

In my PhD thesis, I used the mathematics of French philosopher Alain Badiou to argue the character of the Devil in Paradise Lost had a subject-defining identity crisis, at this crucial point in the book:


"So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, Farewell remorse."

Most literary characters, the devil included, start off passively responding to outside factors. They hope, they fear, they respond. But they aren't deciding, they aren't in control. Then at the midpoint, they turn from passive victim into active protagonist, accepting their responsibility.

Boethius idea's of "drifting" - being a victim of circumstance - was picked up by a little known work of Napoleon Hill's called Outwitting the Devil (1938). According to Hill, most men are drifters, and need to "rise above fear with courage and purpose, resolute and unafraid."


But how to be courageous?

Badiou mapped out a four step cycle, which goes something like this:

First, you start of with anxiety. You build up a belief system about what life is and how it works; a working model. You build your identity around it and gain certainty. But inevitably, the status quo is challenged. You tumble into nihilim (nothing matters). But that's an unbearable state of existence, so you start believing in something else, until the world makes sense again, and you have purpose and passion again. When you start believing that everything happens for a reason (fatalism) you gain courage and confidence.

Here's the interesting thing:
Courage is not a prerequisite to action, it's a result of it.

If you only hope or fear, but never take any action, you will never develop the confidence you need to do the thing. You need to do the thing anyway, to gain experience, which leads to confidence.

When you're starting out, you might feel like this (one of my absolute favorite illustrations from a classic book of fairytales). You might feel like you're pretending. You might not feel like you have the skills or knowledge or strength to complete the mission. But you won't DEVELOP those things without actually starting.


It's risky to take action, and dangerous, because your identity may be shattered! Especially if you've ever played the victim. When I was younger, I was always looking for permission. I sent out slides to galleries. I submitted to publishers. I was waiting for someone else to take a risk on me. I complained and got annoyed at my friends and family who wouldn't use their connections to help me get an in. If only someone gave me a chance! If only I had more luck! It's not fair!

Eventually I figured out, I didn't want to ask for favors or handouts. I didn't want help. I wanted to create value. I needed to take control; because mastery doesn't come from success. Mastery comes from failure and persistence - but ONLY as long as you're willing to be flexible and keep going.

Once you decide to stop drifting, and move past fear or hope, it means you can't just be "a writer who is working on a book but never finishing, because I have no time". Once you take responsibility and control, you know it's all up to you, which comes with consequences, but also with autonomy and freedom.


Find your happy ending

Someone joined Guerrilla Publishing this week and sent me a deeply moving note about why they joined: they wanted to create something of value, something that lasts. They wanted to leave something behind.

That resonated with me on a few levels, and got me thinking about Jean-François Lyotard's 1979 work The PostModern Condition. He writes about the death of the grand narrative. Because we live in a pluralist society, with so many beliefs that none seem to be universal, it can be difficult to find meaningful purpose to believe in; but we must believe in something, so that we can continue to function without falling into an existential crisis. (This is also the conclusion found by a little known 19th century treatise on the 3 orders of creative wretchedness).

If we are only reacting, only drifting, only consuming, years could go by without us being challenged, without us growing or learning or finding meaning. There is a cycle, a renewal of our subjectivity, and it needs to be fulfilled - we can't just stop everything and live in hope and fear.

A book can be something physical, a long-term project successfully completed, something that adds purpose and meaning and value to your life because YOU know how much time and energy you've put into making it.

It can be a way to start an online business; or simply an exercise in creative willpower, an exercise in transmutation: start with your experience, turn them into a meaningful, useful or entertaining product that ADDS VALUE to the world.


Is your life an epic battle?

This is another of my favorite illustrations, back from the "Golden Illustration" period (the 1880's to 1920's)... I grew up on these classic fairy tales. it's also, I think, a symbolic representation of the creative struggle. First, you need something you love, something you desire - something you're willing to RISK your comfortable existence for, and embark on an adventure. Even if you don't feel prepared, or organized, or ready - you just need to do it because a damn dragon stole the princess and she's in danger!

That thing you care about is that one big idea, the thing ONLY you can create, and if you don't make it happen, nobody else will either. The dragon is the danger, the risk of failure, the fear of the unknown, of stepping out of your depth.

Often in these pictures, there's also a castle in the background - symbolizing the happily ever after. Every quest starts with a status quo. The protagonist is forced on to an adventure because something they LOVE has been threatened. They embark on a journey, woefully unprepared, unskilled, but THROUGH the journey they develop all the friendships, abilities and magical items necessary to triumph.

A long time ago I read something that said, "how do you know if you've achieved your purpose in life? If you're still alive, you haven't." The problem is, we may not know WHAT our purpose is, and we think we need to have a plan of exactly what to do or how to get there. We never feel ready enough - but you can't figure out everything before you start; you learn after you begin.

Maybe you don't know what book to write, or what kind of author you want to be. That's OK, you only need a few things to begin your journey.

First, you need something you care about deeply; think of it as your castle, your happily ever after. And you need something enticing enough, exciting enough, to get started - one big goal. So think about what kind of legacy you want to leave behind; what you want to create; what you want to become known for.

You don't need to figure out the how yet, you just need the what. And, there's a good chance your castle on the horizon, after you've saved the princess and achieved your dream, was the WRONG castle. After you gain experience and knowledge, you'll be better able to judge what you really need and want. There will always be NEW challenges and quests, and they're never easy - they get harder to match your new abilities.

In conclusion...

If you feel frustrated or uncertain; if you feel there are invisible antagonists working against you; that's PROOF that you're the hero of your own fairytale, on a magical quest which will certainly end in success, because that's how stories go. You can stay home, warm, comfortable, doing what you've always done, or you can find something you want and go after it.

Honestly, I'm still figuring out what I want to do with my life, and what kind of value I want to add. I don't have all the answers. But I've been doing this for awhile, and I'm pretty far ahead of the curve. If you'd like to get some clarity, and maybe use a book as a way to begin your journey, either as an end in itself or as a step towards a bigger dream, I can help.

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Indie publishing means taking control of your own author business instead of waiting for the gatekeepers to give you permission - which makes it a little scary and dangerous. What if I screw up? What if nobody likes it? What if I'm no good at this?

I saw this comment recently in a Facebook group:

"My biggest fear is that I will put all my energy into something and that it will be a waste of time as it either won’t sell or I wont finish it because I don’t know how the story ends!"

It's good to be cautious - but you can't learn without failure. One of my favorite quotes is from Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: "Fear is just perfectionism in high heels." Because we don't want to get it wrong, we never start at all. The only way to improve is to get comfortable being uncomfortable: to sit with the discomfort and hold the pose.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. 
Step into the abyss and tame the monsters.

The first time I bought an online course it was a huge decision. I was afraid I was getting ripped off. That one came with NO support… and I still learned enough to easily make it worthwhile (even if it took me years to implement everything, by signing up I was telling the universe what I wanted to achieve).

You might also not trust yourself to actually use the content - that's why I've included the workbook and Bookseller Bootcamp - bitesized emails with specific instructions to follow. 


Ready to join the Guerrilla Publishing community?

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You've got this.
Derek Murphy, Creativindie

 

 

PS. Nobody likes to get tricked into buying magic beans. One time we went to a Time Share presentation, determined not to buy anything, but their sales funnel was so slick they pitched us exactly what we needed... afterwards, I felt like a fool for buying something so expensive we'd probably never use (even though I learned a lot about sales from the experience - and we did have a magical week at a Mexican resort). I'd love to tell you a story about how I found pirate treasure with my metal detector and made 10X my investment. But the truth is it was a waste of money and a hard lesson to learn.

I never want anyone to feel fooled or tricked, which is why there's a no-risk, 100% money-back guarantee - you can join now and take a look behind the curtain. I'll even extend the deadline to 90 days. If you don't feel like the course is helping you sell more books, or that you aren't getting the personal attention you deserve, just let me know and I'll refund you.

 

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Derek Murphy
Creativindie.com | Portland, OR

Location Independent - Usually in a castle or cabin.