I was going to try and write an article for the Games & Geekery website this morning. Actually I was going to write it last night, I was super tired and ended up falling asleep instead. I knew I only had one odd-job client scheduled for today though. I could get the article written in the morning and then go paint garden furniture in the afternoon.
However, I got a message from one of my Facebook contacts who happens to also be interested in participating in my sci-fi RP group, The N-Viron Network. He seemed determined to talk despite telling him how busy I was. However, one of the things I was busying myself with was playing with Heroforge.com (it occured to me that I could create custom minis for the characters in The City of Gate), and that I should always be available to help the players.
In general I like to help people. It makes my day to brighten someone else’s. It’s part of the reason I like doing odd-jobs so much. I also love talking about the rp games I run, and writing in general. So when he started the conversation, not with ‘Hi’ or ‘Do you have a minute’, but ‘Do you like Campbell?’ (as in Joseph Campbell, the author of ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces‘) it seemed like it might be an informed discussion about character creation.
I made myself available. I’d been looking forward to seeing what kind of character he might come up anyway based on our previous discussions. He seemed to be leaning towards creating an antagonistic player character determined to tear down the infrastructure of the N-Viron Network last time we talked, which would have made things challenging, but interesting.
However, he quickly stopped talking about The Hero’s Journey and claimed he just wanted to chat and develop our friendship. In my experience people on Facebook who say they ‘just want to be friends’ are selling something. I explained that I prefer having a specific topic of conversation because I’m a bit of an introvert. Conversations need to have a point to reduce the risk of awkward gaps in which you don’t know what to talk about. He claimed to be an introvert too, and that’s why it’s easy for him to listen. He proceeded to dominate the conversation at every opportunity!
He began by saying that he prefers to dig deep into topics that make people feel vulnerable. ‘Like dreams, desires, wishes, fears, etc.’. I agreed that being upfront about your weird stuff is a good way to find out whether or not you can really consider someone a friend. What I didn’t tell him is that I also recognised this as a sales technique. People are easier to convince when they’re vulnerable.
The conversation became a series of soundbites about success and motivation, whilst also criticising my writing style and undermining my confidence. If he’s kept going until I was utterly crushed, I might have been desperate enough to buy what he offered, but he got frustrated with me and quit talking to me first.
His first attack on my self-esteem came by asking why I still lived my parents. This put me on the defensive immediately. I don’t still live my parents. I moved back in with my parents after over a decade of living in the US, because I was feeling emotionally vulnerable and financially desperate following my divorce. He then told me about his string of failed relationships, mentioning that he would sometimes ‘get all bipolar on people’.
Then he asked me when I was going to move on, ‘you’re not going to live with your parents forever are you?’ I was expecting a pitch at this point, some magic way that I could make money and regain independence. Surprisingly he said, ‘I don’t know how you can earn money to get out of this’, and that’s when the self-help quotes started up like, ‘what you fear most is the thing you must do.’
I happen to agree with him. Sometimes doing what must be done is scary, but you have to make the leap. I found the prospect of quitting the day job to write for a living terrifyingly intimidating, but I did it. In fact I find most regular obs intolerable now that I’ve become used to working for myself. I’ve put myself out there and invited constructive criticism and feedback, despite how vulnerable this makes me.
He also said, ‘If you hit your lowest, you can start anew’. This too I agree with, and I told him all about hitting my low point and using it as an opportunity to explore my psyche and figure out what had brought me to this point and why I was getting in my own way. That by doing so I identified several learned behaviours that were holding me back. He then told me that what I had done was impossible and that I was fooling myself, and seeing only what I wanted to see, while continuing to tell me (just like my ex-wife did) that I just had to cut the bullshit and be myself!
Apparently I should only be myself if I do it the way he approves of. ‘Tap into your emotions and your subconscious mind’. I’m pretty sure I had just told him that I did that very thing. I had been using a computer analogy, telling him that I was basically using meditation to edit my source code. He didn’t like that. Computers are logical (though anyone who’s ever used a computer might disagree), while emotions are not. While I agree that ‘logical’ isn’t necessarily the correct word, I do find that emotional reactions make more sense than they’re given credit for.
Regardless of his insistence that I was wrong, I tried to use a different metaphor, that of the mind-palace, to explain how you might choose to navigate and organise your thoughts and emotions. He seemed interested in this concept, but quickly moved on to expressing his opinion that the key to happiness is being aware of, and in touch with, your emotions. At this point he was beginning to sound like a broken record.
I suggested he write a self-help book, which is when he said there being easier ways to make money than writing, and bragged about having lived in one of the most expensive apartments in Romania, and how he’s very good at selling online. Once again I was expecting a sales pitch, but got none. Since he didn’t, I did. I told him about my Patreon campaign and invited him, since he was so affluent and successful, to help support my writing.
He said no. I wasn’t terribly surprised. Usually when people have to tell you how rich they are, they aren’t. They are just trying to convince you they are so that you buy their money-making scheme. I’m also aware that only about 10% of pitches result in a solid sale, because I’ve actually studied sales and marketing back when I worked in sales and marketing!
He went on to tell me that he’d be more interested in reading a book like ‘The Grey Man‘ than my work. Which is fair enough. I’m aware that not everyone is going to like my writing style. My main goal at the moment is to expand my audience and find more people that do. Pitching to people that don’t like my stories is just a waste of time. I made the foolish mistake of asking him how he gained an audience large enough to make him wealthy.
He told me I had to tap into my ‘real, real, real self’ and put myself ‘at risk of being judged’. To risk ‘being considered weird’ and having ‘people make fun of you’. All things I already do, as anyone who subscribes to my WordPress blog already knows. I told him that I already do this and he claims that I’m not really being vulnerable. He read some of the blog and said I write like a scientist.
He cited his own articles as an example of how to write authentically, deeply and with vulnerability, and found almost all of his articles to be about how to get rich (no surprise there) and lists of the things he’s grateful for. The same generic shit I’ve seen on countless blogs that make money through affiliate marketing.
He called me a brat at this point and I called him condescending, and he decided we should never talk again. However, his assessment that I don’t write with emotion or vulnerability bothered me. I feel like I’ve bared my soul in this blog, but what if he’s right? What if the reason why I don’t have a huge following already is because I don’t make people care?
Or maybe he’s just a douchebag. Let me know what you think, I’d appreciate the feedback, no matter how much it may hurt.
By the way, do you like the minis?