100,000 to 1 Odds. I’ll take ‘em. — Fourth Quarter Begins pg286–287
Colorful companion to my memoir The Incompetent Psychic
I contacted another local painter whose work I admired. I asked Nancy if she would like to team up for a show at the library’s gallery?
Nancy Freeman’s background was fiber arts. The patterns and colors she wove into her acrylic landscapes were stylized, enchanting, and dovetailed with this looser new series I’d started. We put together a proposal for Let’s Go For a Walk for the jury, and were given a show in February 2016. That gave us four months of winter to go to town painting bright, summery scenes of Benicia’s historic downtown and waterfront. — From Chapter 15
I only started writing for the marketplace/other people a year and a half ago. Sure I’ve been penciling, penning, typing and keyboarding words to communicate and amuse as an amateur since 1960. Sixty years later I cannon-balled smack into the public infinity pool, hoping to make a splash with my (some say brilliant) memoir… even though I know it doesn’t work that way for just about every first-time author. Only just now I went surfing for the numbers. That infinity pool is the size of an ocean, and my splash barely a ripple. There are a lot of books.
Let’s turn that metaphorical ocean into a mountain in need of climbing. I started a similar uphill trek as a painter in the 80s. (Got an art degree in ’77 then screwed around experimenting with ‘real’ jobs for a while.) In 1990 I started up my full-time art & design business. Painting signs and stage sets financed creative on-spec ventures until my name and reputation became better known. Selling thousands of decent paintings earned me a place on the mountain of artists who make an okay living… but far short of the elite, tippy-top pinnacle of stardom and fortune. The writing world is the next mountain in the same range. Every aspiring author hopes to get a rare, lucky spot on the gondola to Summit Chalet. Those odds are wildly unfavorable.
Odds to get to the top: I’ll use the Washington Post bestseller list as they will consider indie published books for inclusion (twenty titles per week: ten fiction and ten nonfiction). Bowker sells and records ISBN numbers for new book titles — 2700 per day. The math makes this a .001% chance. That is one in a hundred thousand. An author needs to be very good, extraordinarily lucky and pack a helpful track record. From long experience as a painter I know it takes decades of effort to even get a slot machine in the Creative Livelihood Casino… much less a lucky one. I’m glad I didn’t seek out these numbers before I started writing. Now I’m amazed that anyone has actually read my book (I have really good friends!)
Competition to land one of the coveted eleven spots each year for an exhibit in the beautiful art gallery in the Benicia Public Library is high. Not 100,000 to 1 of course, but still not an easy in. Concept and appealing, quality work got Nancy and me through the first round of judging. A good track record for successful past exhibits in the region got us to the final round of selection, and luck won us a show. I’ve done hundreds of art shows, but this was a favorite because it connected me to so many neighbors and happy dogs in a vibrant community. That feeling is where inspiration lives.
I’ve earned a comfy cabin on Art Mountain and a foothold at the base camp of Mount Writer. Now I’m staring at another long trail up. I know it is a worthwhile climb but dang, a sherpa would be nice.
A signed copy of Mernie’s memoir is available at www.etsy.com/listing/839838936
Unsigned copies can be ordered wherever books are sold.