Sweet Humility

"The earth keeps some vibration going / There in your heart, and that is you. / And if people find you can fiddle / Why, fiddle you must, for all your life."

"Fiddler Jones," Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (1915)


The character in the Masters poem "Fiddler Jones" played the fiddle at rural fairs and dances, and eked out a not-very-good living as a farmer. It was in him to make music. He did. He gave himself no particular credit for this: "The earth keeps some vibration going." The poem's message was that he lived and died a happy man, though he was unsuccessful in the usual meaning of the word.

Isn't humility a relief? Occupation of the center of the universe is an awesome burden and a heavy responsibility. Abdication of this role opens the door to good things.

Humility gets a bad rap because it is mistakenly identified with low self-esteem. It has nothing to do with self-esteem. It has to do with knowing the world is a wider place than you and your ambitions. This does not mean that your ambitions are bad, just that they are not the whole story.

A Humble Profession

While self-publishing does not absolutely require humility, it has ways of forcefully suggesting that it is a very good idea.

Successful self-publishing requires you to be good -- and not just at telling stories. It requires technical proficiency, social skills, commitment, manners, patience, persistence, and willingness to learn from experience. It requires an excess of virtue to get anywhere at all.

For a test of your commitment, fail twenty times to get your book into Smashwords' premium catalog because of obscure problems in the epub file. It is near midnight and you are exhausted. You have a life. You have a job. Have you got attempt number twenty-one in you?

Well, have you?

Another test: format your own interior file for the print version. I did this by downloading a guide called "How to Build Your Book." There I was with my little guide, the Word file of my manuscript, and a template, figuring out bit by bit how to make Cel & Anna: A 22nd Century Love Story look like the books on my bookshelf.

Those are just a couple of technical challenges. They are what you deal with after you have done the hard work of writing and rewriting, and listening to people who tell you truthful things you do not want to hear.

Some people have a stake in portraying self-published authors as clueless and lazy. This is not true.

To see what I mean, read a blog by David Gaughran, author of the excellent Let's Get Digital. The title is "What Do You Want?" Then read a few of the 111 comments.


Last Tuesday, I had to stop writing -- on an excellent writing day -- and go get my teeth cleaned. Feeling henpecked by life, I went.

At the dentist's office the radio was playing "Shout" by the Isley Brothers. This song is not deep or profound or even very musical. It is the opposite of those things. But when I hear "Shout," I hear happiness.

When the hygienist asked me what was new, I told her I had published a novel. She wanted to know where to find it, and between passes with the dental instruments, I told her. On the oral hygiene report everyone gets at the end of the visit, she did not write something like "floss more."

She wrote, "Congratulations on your book being published."

My dentist was impressed, too. "Punch my name in at Amazon and Cel & Anna will come up," I said.

"I will," he said.

A little nip of satisfaction there. Fiddler Jones would agree.

Sweet Summer Sale

For the satisfaction of reaching readers, I put my novel Cel & Anna on sale for 99 cents through Labor Day, September 5, 2011, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

The new ebook, Lighthorse Magic and Other Stories, is available as a free PDF here.