Working For Yourself: Month Eleven (The Big)

Meg Keene Camp Mighty

Before we get into what happened yesterday (and we will get into what happened yesterday), I need to talk about this last month. I’ve mentioned before I dove into this first year of self-employment telling myself that my job was exactly the same as it had always been (writing posts, selling ads), but that this year I’d have more time to do it, and I’d also write a book. It turns out, that was sort of a lie.

But there is also this one other *tiny* thing that I’ve been lying to myself about. I’ve been lying to myself about the fact that real live people (lots of them) read my blog. And as with all lies we tell ourselves, sometimes they save our sanity for a little bit, but eventually they fall apart. Sometimes they fall apart in ways that feel hard to grapple with (like most of this month) and sometimes they fall apart in blindingly wonderful ways (like yesterday).

At every step of the blog’s growth, I’ve had some serious growing pains. It turns out that I’m a kind of private person (which is perpetually interesting as a blogger), so I’ve worked to be careful about what parts of myself I put out for public comment. I want to talk, endlessly, about ideas—but I don’t want to talk about or justify, say, how I decorate my home, the day to day of my family life, or deeply personal decisions. So I’ve walked a line with what I share here. Long time readers will remember that (mostly due to my corporate job) I didn’t show a picture of my face for the first year and a half (big reveal here, with a gun). We didn’t share a ton of wedding photos with the internet, and most of the ones I picked to share didn’t even have my face in them (that was not a conscious choice). And over much of my blogging career I’ve posted few enough pictures of me that I spent a year interacting with a long time reader twice a week without him figuring out who I was.

So this year, as the blog has grown, I’ve simply pretended that it’s just this little project I work on from my kitchen table, la-la-la. And this month, that sort of fell apart on me, in all sorts of ways.

It started a few minutes before Amber took this picture of me at Camp Mighty. When I went to Mighty Summit a year ago, I felt like I was in the perfect position. I’d made enough professional headway to get invited, but no one knew who I was (which meant zero expectations). This year, at Camp Mighty, I pretended that it was going to be exactly the same way. It wasn’t. When I walked into the first party, four or five people I didn’t know said hi to me. Still operating in my little self-delusion bubble, I thought, “Hum. I wonder how they know who I am?” (Oh, internet, apparently you go… everywhere?) Then two seconds before this picture was taken, some lovely ladies stopped me and said, “You’re Meg.” And you guys, I’m an idiot. I totally froze. I said, “Yes.” And then they said, “You’re Meg!” again. And I looked super baffled and said, “I totally am….” and then I ran off to take these pictures. That’s grace, kids. (Slams head into the desk.)

And the thing is, I know why I do what I do. It’s about the work, and about getting to write, and about sharing ideas with a whole bunch of smart people, and about getting to run a creative business. And I want it to be about the work, not about me. But this month I realized that’s not going to be the case, all of the time. So negotiating that has been tricky for me. Finding the real goodness in a bigger platform has been hard at some moments this month, but yesterday that goodness became breathtakingly clear.

Holy crap yesterday. Yesterday, when you guys single handedly pushed up The APW Book to #29 on Amazon US, and #77 on Amazon Canada. Yesterday, which was the most awe inspiring day of my professional life. Yesterday, when I got a feeling for what the APW community actually is, and for what it can be. Yesterday. I am so grateful. And overwhelmed. And kind of hung over. And grateful. And in awe.

Clearly, I have not wrapped words around all of this yet. So I thought I’d wrap words around what I learned, instead. Yesterday taught me a variation of the lesson I’ve learned over and over again all year, and the whole time I was trying to sell the book: You can’t succeed without being willing to fail with full force. You can’t figure out how far you can go, until you push yourself so far that you risk completely falling on your face. And seriously? This never stops sucking, don’t kid yourself.

When I set up The Great APW Book Buy (in the middle of the holiday season, when the vast majority of books are sold for the year, which even my marketing team told me was a dubious idea) I thought it would be fun. I thought it was the smartest way I knew to sell the book. (And as an author, book sales are vitally important. Not because of the money it makes you, but because it determines your future book writing fate.) So, being sometimes overly fearless, I figured, “Let’s just do it.”

My self preservation instinct kicked in a week or two ago when I realized I had set up a profoundly public way to nose-dive into the concrete. If book sales were a little slow? No one would ever know publicly. Not that embarrassing! If APW-ers didn’t buy (or simply couldn’t buy enough) books to make the APW book buy a success… it was going to be profoundly f*cking clear. Embarrassing. By the night before the book buy (even as you guys left me comments so nice that they made me sob) I was in a panic. What had I done? How bad could this be? So yesterday morning, when David got out of bed to check the stats, and didn’t say anything for fifteen minutes… I started hyperventilating. Then he came back to say, “Not to worry, the book was number 6,000 on Amazon.” I pondered not getting out of bed at all. This seemed possibly very, very, very mortifying.

And then it started to play out. I ate breakfast because David made me. The book jumped to 659. Things seemed much better. I went to the gym. It jumped to 96, and the bestseller list, then to 64. Holy shit. I took a shower. It jumped to 34. Oh my god. I ate lunch. It jumped to 29. It stayed at 29. It stayed at 29. That’s when what happened started to hit me. And today it’s still hovering on the bestseller list. It was crazy, and amazing, to watch the APW community throw its full weight behind the book and make something that should have been impossible happen. It felt like a blessing just to see, let alone to be at the focus. It was staggering, being in the center of that whirlwind.

And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t taken that huge risk. (Though, arguably, I could have stayed in bed till the outlook looked brighter.)

So thank you guys. And mostly, I really, really hope that it pushes you to take your own risks, to remember that mortal terror and rejection are what happen before you push yourself as hard as you can, and to remember that it’s never easy. I hope it inspires you to think about the way we spend our money to support what we believe in, the power of community, and the force of a whole lot of individuals working together. Zan said on Twitter yesterday, ” The APW Book Buy sort of feels like that scene in Finding Nemo where all the fish pull together and ‘SWIM DOWN!’ Except we’re up!” And that’s totally what it felt like. And it was pretty amazing to behold.

More on everything book related coming soon. There will be book tour news along with the book, actually, you know… coming out officially in January. It’s pretty crazy that this was just the beginning. I better rest up, because here we go.

Photo of me at Camp Mighty by Amber Marlow Photography, aka, Amber of The Amber Show

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