This post originally appeared on my Patreon on March 15, 2021.
A few weeks ago my therapist said how impressed she was that I had written two books and was working on my third. I laughed her off, assuring her that it wasn’t that big of a deal, really. This exchange has played out several times since we started working together. When, later that session, I told her that it seemed that Sew Witchy had exploded in sales she was enthusiastic and again I laughed it off like it was nothing.
“Why do you do that?” she asked me. In a moment of honesty unusual even for me in a therapy setting, I blurted out, “I guess I don’t know how to deal with success.”
That realization hit me hard. It’s’ not easy for me to accept praise and I have an almost pathological impulse to downplay anything I do. So, as I have watched with no little bewilderment as sales of Sew Witchy have climbed, I find myself in new, and uncomfortable, territory.
See, I’m used to working very hard for little or no gain. All the years I sewed, I never made more than part-time, minimum wage money. Back even further, with my publishing company, I hustled and edited and published and marketed and none of my publications were a success even by micro-press standards. That lack of financial success colored my whole view of life.
I could point to all the authors who got their first publication credit with me, or all the readers who enjoyed the e-zines and e-books. I could mention the people who danced with glee over their costumes and dice bags and skirts with pockets. I could even make a case of what I gained on a skill level, or the benefit to my kids that I worked from home.
None of that matters, however, in a capitalistic society. If it doesn’t make money, and not just pocket money but living wage money it is no better than a hobby. Worse, it’s a waste of time.
And now here I am at this weird place where I have spent my entire life finding value in markers of success that have no monetary value potentially seeing financial success. I can’t even write that sentence without couching it in “possibilities”. I do that because I won’t know how much money these increased sales has generated until the end of March when I receive my royalty statement from Llewellyn. But I also do it out of a reflex to keep expectations low to avoid disappointment. And yet, the reality is that since my first advance payment for Sew Witchy I have made more money than my best year of sewing.
All of this has led to me needing to figure out how I feel about success, about making money, and about what that means over the next few years as I try to leverage my interests and skills into a career. I need to figure out how to stop downplaying my efforts and learn to celebrate my successes. I don’t want to make that progress by embracing a purely financial definition of success, though. It’s a balance that I’m going to be working on for a while.