I’m sitting here in a puddle of self-pitying insecurity. I have been bouncing from site to site like a demented flea, looking for validation any place I can find it. Eventually I’ll break out the beer and find it there.
I keep hearing from big, successful people that if you want to break the shackles of your nine-to-five prison and make a living at what you love, then Just Do It. It’s that simple, and that hard. Your dreams won’t magically fall into your lap. If that were true, Keanu Reeves would have been too busy to make any movies lo these past ten years (wink, wink). You have to just take the first step, and then the next and the next and the next and then boy, you’re really doing it! Look at you living your dream!
There is no end of general advice just like this, because specific (read: helpful) advice is not applicable to a wide range of people, and therefore not in the purview of a public figure to dole out. Just do the thing you love, but make sure it’s for the right reasons – not for fame or success or accolades. I’m looking specifically at you, Chris Hardwick, you childless menace of my expectations. I listen to your podcast, and you give this advice constantly. Granted, I know your heart is in the right place, but there are a few considerations that make my perspective a little different. So to make this easy on myself, I’ll just pretend like I’m telling this directly to your smug face. I’m sorry, that was mean. You have a nice face; it’s very affable.
So here’s the thing. I am doing the thing. But I’m not doing it very well. The thing in question is a podcast with my bestie, and also I’m trying to write whenever I can because it’s my passion. The problem is… no one really cares. At least in the sense of general public attention. And we never expected to have a super successful podcast and be famous, nor did I expect to suddenly be the next David Wong. But darn it, it would be nice to know people enjoy what we put out there. And I just don’t know how to get people to pay attention. The solution to which… the general advice is to just do the thing harder.
Now here’s the sitch. I have a family, a house, a dog, friends. All these entities require my attention. I also need to sleep, and I need to spend quality time with my kids and my husband, and sometimes those are separate activities (wink, wink). I have household logistics to be planned, delegated, and executed. There are dishes and laundry and school projects and doctor appointments and frantic library book returns and unexpected medical emergencies, and oh yeah I HAVE A FULL TIME JOB ON TOP OF ALL THIS. I’m not saying that people with kids just don’t understand, BUT YOU JUST DON’T FREAKING UNDERSTAND. Even if you DO have kids one day, you’re (I assume) at least moderately wealthy. So you have this additional layer of cushion under your sense of agency, knowing that you can hire a nanny from time to time, or even permanently, if you need one. Or someone to drive the kids to and from school and other activities. I don’t have that kind of scratch, so it all comes out of my time-pocket. And honestly, in my downtime, I am e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d and sometimes (most of the time) I succumb to it.
Being a parent takes away a part of who you were. It replaces that with something beautiful, but also something very sad. You’re not the independent adult you used to be. Your hobbies drop off, your interests change, your inspirations wither from disuse, your inner monologue gets mean. It doesn’t have to be permanent – goddammit I hope it’s not permanent. I’m at the place now where my kids aren’t quite so little any more and maybe I have a little more space in my brain. Now it’s my task to figure out how to break apart what I’ve become and push into those cracks some of the pieces of what I used to be. I know I’m not going to be the same as I was before, and I don’t want to be. Not exactly. But trying to remake yourself after years of systematic squashing of your selfish side – the part of you that just goes after what it wants – is daunting, exhausting, and terrifying. I have to get to know myself again. That’s not something that can be solved with a weekend of meditation and yoga. I’ve been splintered into two pieces – the parent and the person. They don’t fit together very well, so I have to sand down and spot weld both pieces, but where? How? HOW?
If it was just me and my husband, I could work part time and really throw myself into writing until I had established enough success (hopefully?) to do it full time, and with great and joyful abandon. But that doesn’t fly with kids who need room to grow, and decent food to eat, and glasses, and who outgrow their clothes constantly. So I have to keep my full time job, and devote a lot of my free time to my kids’ quality of life. Where is the advice for people like me, who need more than four hours of sleep at night and have to be present for the family while they’re awake, and who will go bat-shit crazy if they don’t get to actually sit down and eat their lunch during the work day? HMMMM?
<interruption: I had to stop typing for a moment because my four-year-old, who is supposed to be sleeping, came to tell me that he thinks a human is sleeping under his bed. His words. There’s a lot to unpack there, so that will have to be for another time>
I guess I just keep plugging along and hope that what I do manage to produce gives me enough validation to feel proud of myself. But… nobody is really listening. Here’s what no one ever addresses in a way that’s satisfactory. How in the ever-loving fuck do you get any social media engagement? I mean really! HOW. IN. THE. EVER-LOVING. FUCK. There’s this “if you tweet it, they will come” mentality, but… NO. It doesn’t work like that. Unless I’m just really bad at it. All the advice is “engage with your followers!” HOW DO I GET THEM. “Have a great product and people will find you!” NO THEY WON’T. People just don’t give a fuck about anything. And you know what? I’m doing all this without the benefit of any kind of budget to speak of, and with no background whatsoever in entertainment. YOU SIR, have been working in the industry since the 90’s. So even if you weren’t Tom Cruise famous, you had connections with people who know entertainment – you had a good scaffolding in your brain of knowledge of how these things work. I don’t have a bunch of famous friends I can interview that will create a self promoting machine. I haven’t the faintest idea what strategies to use, what will get people’s attention, what channels there are to go about promoting things. How do I promote things? Tweet to my 12 followers?? I tell my friends, but there’s this funny thing that happens. I don’t know if it’s specific to non-entertainment industry friendships or not, but it’s what I’ve observed to be true. People are really supportive with their words, and much less so with their actions. So you hear things like “Oh my gawwwd, you guys are so funny, you should have a podcast or a show or something! You guys should make videos!” Then you make the podcast, and suddenly no one has the time to hit the goddamn “share” button or even take the time to listen. That’s what happens. So this thing of “just tell all your friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and yay exponents!” is predicated on faulty logic. I don’t run with a community of independent artists that are used to supporting each other in this way. No shade to my friends, they’re fantastic people. It’s just human nature, I think.
*breaks out the beer*
Now all this time I’ve been bitching, here’s what I know to be true. For our podcast, we have been at it almost a year. So it’s still a little early to be bitter about it. And we love it very much – someone will have to pry the microphone out of our cold, dead hands before we give it up. And I’m sure we’ve made, and are making mistakes. I know about some of them. We haven’t got the best equipment, or even the space or the time for a dedicated podcast area that we can make acoustically appropriate, but in the interest of just doing the thing… we just do the thing. For my writing, I know I don’t have enough content out there. But see above – how am I supposed to make time for this, with everything else I have to do? It’s discouraging, and it makes the thing I love feel like an exercise in futility, because I love writing, but I don’t do it for myself. I want other people to enjoy it, and I want to know they enjoy it. It will make me HAPPY.
So in conclusion, I know what the problems are on a surface level. But it’s not as easy as just do the thing. I would love to hear from anyone who reads this what tactics and strategies they’ve had success with, either for getting their stuff out there in way that’s not just screaming into the void, or for keeping their spirits buoyed when you’re in a whiny bitch mood like I am now.
By the way, if you’ve gotten here, THANK YOU for reading! 😀