There’s a way things work.
F’r’instance, as part of your ongoing excavation of Mt. What Comes Next, you’ll have a series of serious and heartfelt conversations about where you’re headed, and how you’re sure if you’re going to keep moving forward you need to jettison some of this crap you’ve hauling around with you even though you’re damned if you know where all of this forward stuff is leading to.
And the people you have them with will bring up this or that, but especially the column you’ve been writing for over three years, and ask you “Well, what about that? Is it really serving you anymore?”
And your answers will range from “I don’t know” to “Every time I swear I’ll quit, I get another note about how much it’s helping” to “Ugh.”
And the “Ugh.” comes from what you do know: that this project you started as an experiment, as the impetus to write seriously every month (or as seriously as someone who pens songs about the effect of flatulence on butter can write), and to do it on a deadline, on one particular topic to a particular audience, has hit The Dip, and you’re not sure if it, indeed, is The Dip, or just time to go. You can stay anywhere you want, but you can’t stay here.
The suggestion is gently made that perhaps you consider (excuse me while I lift this cheek) monetizing the project. I mean, sure you’ve scored a whopping c-note for every 1,000-word gem you’ve submitted, but maybe something more than shared-hosting-space money. Maybe turning it into a book that said actor-types could mark up and carry around, or even buy from you as a token of their apparent appreciation (they’re quite appreciative via the email and the Facebook and even the rare in-person opportunities). Or maybe with a little imagination and effort you could even turn it into (again, excuse me, it’s the beans) an information product, a “teleclass” or “webinar” or “electronic download” exchangeable for cash-money via the PayPal.
And a part of you agrees that yes, of course you could but also that no, that just doesn’t feel right. Not quite. Not now.
And as you think about pulling the trigger on your resignation, a few more thank-you emails roll in, and your submission deadline looms, and you think, “One more month. I’ll just table it for one more month.”
And then you get a piece of hate mail.
You’ve heard about these, of course, from your friends who are well ahead of you on the path to that mythical land of Internet Fame; over the years, you yourself have received the odd, gripe-y comment from an Aspy reader off his meds. But this one? This one is venomous. It accuses you of all sorts of indecencies you fear and despise, and in sneering, disdainful, umbrage-laden rage: hackery, for starters, and bad intent (isn’t that what all anonymous disgruntled folk claim?) but worst of all to you, it accuses you of irrelevance.
Irrelevance. That, you have a harder time shaking off.
Because you have, after all, been out of the game yourself for over four years, which is something you not only share openly and often, but which, of late, has been nagging at you as well: how great a level of utility can you provide your audience of working and even aspiring so-and-so’s when you yourself kissed it all goodbye four years ago? And yes, you still regularly receive grateful, gracious, loving notes out of nowhere from strangers and former colleagues, thanking you for your work, describing in heart-warming detail how it has helped them in real and significant ways, telling you how happy they are to have information served up in a way that feels caring and makes them feel cared-for.
Irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant.
There are mirrors everywhere. Some of them are in darker, danker dressing rooms than you care to visit, but when you find yourself staring into one, you must still look at what is looking back at you and ask the question: What of this is the truth? And what must I do about it?