Sisyphus’s rocks ~ when is it time to give up and stop pushing?
Last week, this blog passed both its five year anniversary and 150 thousand ‘hits’ in that time and I failed to blog about either milestone. We were away for the anniversary but I could have written a post and scheduled it for the 9th, the day itself. A few days later, I watched as the numbers on my stats page ticked up to and past the 150k mark, and while I mentioned it here and there, I had no real sense or feeling of achievement.
When I began blogging I had no idea where it would take me. Very few of my earliest blogging friends still blog; some have vanished utterly, some have deleted blogs and some seldom if ever add new posts. But there are millions of new blogs, across the various platforms, and from a brief glance, the ones that tend to be the most popular are the food blogs, the parenting (Mummy) blogs and a few massive writer blogs. Mine is insignificant in the greater scheme of things. I’ve seen my average daily number of visits fall steadily.
It’s not the only thing to fall steadily. Book sales have diminished too. This time last year I had begun to believe I might be close to making a small living out of writing. Now I can say no such thing. There are conspiracy theories abounding, suggesting underhand and dishonest dealings from the biggest of the e-book retailers, Amazon, and while I am tempted to believe in such theories, the truth is probably far more prosaic. E-book growth has slowed in the last year, despite the proliferation of titles and the emergence of many new authors. Amazon itself has responded to the slowdown with new promotional ideas such as Countdown, and Matchbook as well as the Select programme. I hear constantly of other writers who had been doing really well, seeing steady growth of their book sales, finding that their sales numbers have fallen and nothing seems to halt it. While in my worst moments of depression lately I have feared that my personal decline in sales is down to me being a crap writer (and I don’t dismiss that entirely, because we can all delude ourselves), the fact is that the market share for every mid-list author is getting smaller the more books there are out there, and the harder it is to be visible. Yet those who have paid for advertisements report diminishing returns for their outlay, just as those who used the Select programme find that using their free days has been less and less effective in getting visibility and subsequent sales.
There’s also the fact that with the bonanza of free books (as well as extremely cheap ones) many people with e-readers may never finish reading all the freebies they have amassed. There are plenty of folks who declare they will never BUY another e-book again. While some of the free books are certainly going to be dross, it’s FREE dross, and if you don’t have any particular taste for reading except as a way to pass time, it matters very little what you read. It’s depressing to think that there are readers who care little about the work and thought and sheer heart that goes into writing a good book, and who only look at the price. I reduced the price of The Bet, in the hopes that bringing it into the same range as my others might entice new readers.
I’m told that the best way to gain readers is to bring out more books, which is fine and dandy, except I am far from convinced that this will work any more. I know of authors who bring out several (or many) new books every year, and who are also seeing falling sales. I believe that the wonderful readers I already have will be very pleased when I bring out a new book (and I have had requests to know when the sequel to The Bet is coming out) and for those I say, soon. Yet this brings me to the other thing.
If you have been following this blog, you will know I have been diagnosed with a parathyroid tumour. I’m waiting for a date for surgery to remove this non-cancerous growth, but it’s still uncertain when that will be. But Dexter (my tumour) is causing huge physical and mental health problems. I’m in pain constantly despite pain relief that itself causes problems. I’m suffering from low mood that makes staying upbeat VERY hard, despite my best efforts to keep positive and to be thankful for the good things. Even the fact that I try and fail makes me feel horribly guilty; am I so weak and ungrateful that I cannot overcome my feelings when so many around me are suffering so much more and despite all the many blessings I have? No. I’m fighting an unseen enemy that upsets every system in my body, from hormones to muscles to bones and kidneys.
The esoteric side of this tumour needs a mention too (bear with me if you can’t cope with the woo-woo aspects) . The throat area is seen as housing an energy centre (usually referred to as a chakra) and these energy centres are referenced in many systems from Tibetan Buddhism, through Kabballah and on to Hinduism. Jung himself worked through the theories of kundalini yoga and examined the chakras in detail: http://www.dedroidify.com/kundalini.htm
The throat chakra is known as Vishuddha: “Vishuddha may be understood as relating to communication and growth through expression. This chakra is paralleled to the thyroid,(1) a gland that is also in the throat and which produces thyroid hormone, responsible for growth and maturation. Physically, Vishuddha governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security.
In Tibetan buddhism, this chakra is red, with 16 upward pointing petals. It plays an important role in Dream Yoga, the art of lucid dreaming.”
The vishuddha chakra allows full self-expression. The first four deal with more basic human functions, but this energy center is where individuality shines and you can become your own person, freely expressing your opinions and truths regardless of other people. Lying to ourselves and obstructions from our own happiness that we accept into our own lives is what prevents us from maintaining a healthy throat chakra, so any lies such as these must be eliminated in order to fully open this chakra. This is a very important chakra, and without it, none of us would show any signs of what we consider to be humanity, so it is vital to keep it opened to allow our inner selves to flow.
- The parathryoid glands were not known either in antiquity or until relatively recently, so they are seldom mentioned. I’m getting a little fed up of explaining that PARATHYROID is totally different to thyroid, because most people assume the terms are interchangeable. Their function was not even known until 1925 when research began to investigate their possible role in the body.
The possibility that the presence of this malfunctioning and tumorous gland in the area of my throat chakra is responsible for the emotional distress I am feeling, this sense of my expression of self is blocked, is not to be discounted. Body, mind and spirit are closely tied. Some might suggest that it has been my blocked self expression that has caused the malfunction. I would find such a suggestion pretty offensive, because it pours a whole vat-load of blame on me. I also don’t think that until this began (and I have no accurate date, just a suspicion that it began around 7 years ago) I was blocked. I’d written 7 novels in 3 years, and beginning this blog was the start of a more intimate form of self expression, confessional rather than fictional.
This brings me back to my title and Sisyphus. Sisyphus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus was condemned to roll a rock up a hill and have it roll back down for eternity. That’s what I’ve been feeling like these last years. Every good thing I have done, have worked at, struggled to achieve, has been the result of momentous effort, and yet which has failed to reach a pinnacle, and has begun to roll back down to the start. Over and over again, often crushing me as it plummets down the mountainside.
I’m wondering at what point can I, a mere mortal, just stop, and instead of pushing that damned rock, can sit on it and refuse to go on with what feels like a fruitless and depressing path.