Monday, January 19, 2009

It depends nearly all on me

Being between reading projects at work, I have on occasion gone to the Carlyle letters on line and read with great enjoyment. I had in mind to look through some of Carlyle's early letters to see if they had any indication of some of his later extremes in political matters. I'm not sure I have yet found anything concerning my search. What I did find was a wonderful letter from Thomas Carlyle to Henry Inglis, written on 31 March 1829. Carlyle was 33; Inglis eleven years younger.

Although Carlyle was not yet at the point where his writing was providing him with renown or financial success, he was still able to give the younger man some advice about his future work and using his talent. Consider this excerpt.

...I look forward to see how in the future you will unfold and turn to use so fair a talent. For henceforth, it depends nearly altogether on yourself: if you can but learn the lessons which Experience will teach you, it matters little whether these be of a sweet or bitter nature: the bitter as well as the sweet are but the rind enclosing a fruit of Wisdom, which is in itself celestial and perennial. Diligence, unwearied steadfast Endeavour; ‘like the stars, unhasting, unresting’!

"It depends nearly altogether on yourself." That phrase hit me hard when I read it last Friday. I have been bemoaning the difficulties of being published. It seems I have tried to break in to publishing at the wrong time. First I was unhappy to learn that the publisher does almost no marketing of books, except a catalogue entry; the author has to do everything. Then the concept of author's "platform" hit me hard. I have no platform, and so am even less likely to be considered for book publishing. So I thought of my long-thought-of newspaper column as a means of platform building. Then, at the same time when Life was squeezing time from me, I saw what was happening in the newspaper business, the rapid shrinking of markets and failure to compete with the Internet--that and all the marketing time it would take to go that route. And, having little hope that that time would materialize, I put just about everything on hold.

Of course, I should not expect breaking in to a new business, having a second career, to be easy. I don't know why I ever thought otherwise. Carlyle, as remote as he is to today and to me, is saying that success in this new endeavor depends on me. It's not how well I write--because writing better is something that is totally within my power through improving my craft. It's now about whether I have the right ideas--for market research is something I can and should do. It's not about who you know--well, actually it is, but I can figure out how to meet people. Etc., etc., etc.

Okay, TC, back to the drawing board I guess. If you can just help me figure out how to find three or four more hours in the day, that would be a big help.

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