This weekend I went to a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight night in Tacoma … and was pulled back from the edge of giving up on writing.
Me? Thinking about hanging up the typewriter?
Books sales have dropped off the face of the planet. I can never find the time to invest in the marketing required to find new readers now that my podcast audience has dried up. I’m currently writing the fourth, yes, fourth novel since July 5th of this year and am losing creative steam because of the crisis of confidence from the book’s sales for RIP, making a previously enjoyable project about as enticing as a trip to see the mall Santa when you don’t have kids.
The situation isn’t helped with a current battle with unemployment—a harsh reality that can force cracks in even the most secure and confident of people.
The compounding effects of bad breaks and misfortune have me entertaining a lot of thoughts of giving up this dream of a successful publishing career. As enjoyable as creating is, there’s so much more to life than sitting behind a keyboard, inside the house—I’m an outdoor person—sacrificing time, money, and mental energy when it feels like no one is interested. Hell, writers exist in a world of $5 cups of coffee or $7 craft beers; where people balk at paying $3 for a full novel that will outlast a hundred coffees or beers (drinking while reading awesome fiction is not recommended).
Why continue giving up mornings to write when I could get much-needed sleep; sacrificing lunch breaks to try and figure out the Amazon ad bidding secrets when I could, oh, I don’t know, try to unwind before returning to the work that bleeds my soul dry; or forgoing free nights to cram social media posts in between dinner, walking the dogs, and preparing for the next day, instead of spending that time with family? It’s all too much.
Why Not Quit?
I was on the edge of doing that this weekend.
Then, I met Charon Spain.
Well, I didn’t meet him, but he crossed my radar when I looked at the fight card for that night’s MMA event. You see, out of the 9 bouts, all fighters except for two had less than 10 professional fights to their name. One guy was 11-3 and was fighting for the championship. The other guy with more than 10 fights? The aforementioned Charon Spain.
And what a record he had! Coming into the night, Charon’s record was 16-33 in 49 fights. Yes, 49 professional fights; three times as many as the next closest competitor—who was fighting for the championship belt, remember?
The fact that Charon had the guts to fight in that many battles initially caught my attention. His poor record is what made me call him “my champion” before the fights even started. I like rooting for the underdog.
I mean, come on, people. This is MMA; one of the most physical, bloody sports in the world. Not only had Charon fought 49 times professionally, but he’d lost twice as many times as he’d won. Now, I don’t know the nature of his losses, but I’ve watched enough MMA to know he was probably in pain more times than not. Thirty-three times!
There is a soft spot in my heart for a person like that, a person without quit.
Time To Fight
If you’ve never been to an MMA event, you most likely don’t know that introductions for fighters include where each fighter trained and prepared—sort of giving props to those who helped them get where they are. During Charon’s introduction, the announcer stated he “trained independently.” That’s right, Charon Spain has no gym, no trainer. He was preparing for fights out in Yakima without a coach or a dedicated gym/fight school. Charon had prepared for this night all alone.
Yes, it endeared him even more to me. (He ended up being the only fighter on the 18-fighter card without a gym.)
This guy walked to the ring alone, stripping down to his ring attire, knowing that 2 out of 3 times he loses (and probably gets his ass kicked in the process—remember, this is MMA). Not only was he out there alone, but he’d been alone throughout his journey. No one there to push him on. No one around to encourage him when he might have doubted himself. No one to pull him back down when he got too lofty in ambitions and confidence.
I mean, how can you not root for someone like that?
Charon received a lukewarm welcome from most of the crowd while his opponent’s friends/family jeered him from his corner of the ring.
I cheered louder for him.
See, here’s the thing about my champion. Charon Spain taught me a lesson that night he didn’t know I needed.
Every writer goes through a period where they just want the self-inflicted pain of trying to reach their writing goals to stop. Publishing is very hard, doubly-hard if you’re an Indie author because you’re doing most (if not all) of the work that takes an idea to something a reader holds in their hands 8,000 miles away. It’s an exercise in vulnerability; you put yourself out there and rarely does the world provide positive feedback, preferring to give unhelpful comments about your art or, worse, silence.
Too many times, you bleed on the page, and no one cares.
That’s why I’ve been toying with the idea of quitting. It takes so much to do this right, and if you don’t have the right friends or the right type of luck, it can feel overwhelming, depressing, and hopeless.
That’s been my writing journey throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall of 2019.
But then Charon Spain, intervened, teaching me a valuable lesson through his own passion and dreams.
He could have quit well before reaching 49 pro matches. He could have stopped each time an opponent knocked him down or choked him out. When his record first hit that unceremonious mark of two losses for every win, he could have put the gloves away forever.
Think about it; for every time he succeeded at something, he failed twice.
And that made me examine my writing journey, right then and there, while he fought.
Right now, let’s be honest, I’m failing. I have more real-life friends (and I don’t run in big circles) than total reviews for my four books on Amazon—and those reviews mostly came from people involved in my projects early on, the truly supportive people. That means most of the world doesn’t care enough about my stories to take a few minutes to tell the world they enjoyed them. RIP isn’t selling and there could be a million reasons why, reasons I have to decipher in between job hunting and trying to survive. Novel Idea to Podcast: How to Sell More Books Through Podcasting and Chasing the Demon move a little bit each, but 12 Deaths of Christmas is in free-fall since pulling it out of being exclusive to Amazon. The audience I leaned on in the past dried up with the conclusion of my fiction podcasts and I don’t have the resources to reengage them. It’s all so overwhelming.
But then, when I look at it through Charon’s 2-failures-for-each-success model, I see inspiration. I write because I love it. I want to be able to support myself from it because I want to do more of it, not because I want a home in the mountains (though that would be nice). But it’s not going to be easy and there are going to be times when I get knocked down, or put in a chokehold.
There will be moments in your writing journey when you think you have momentum and then someone shocks you with a superman punch.
Some fighters have access to better gyms. Some writers have access to connections.
Some fighters can afford better trainers. Some writers can afford better editors or flights to all the conferences in the world to make all the connections with all the important people.
Who knows if your journey will contain any breaks, let alone all those? But there is one thing guaranteed along the writing path.
If you stay in the game long enough, there will be times when you get put out and the ref raises the other guy’s arm. And if you quit at that point, you’re guaranteed to not achieve your writing goals. Stay in the game long enough and you will always have a fighting chance.
A chance to live your own Charon Spain moment, a moment when you get to prove your doubters wrong.
To win at that day's writing game.
And live to fight another.
In the end, isn’t that all we can ask for? A chance to keep going?
When Charon Spain made his opponent tap out (give up,) his hand was deservedly raised as the winner of the bout that fateful night. But, in truth, someone with 50 MMA fights, who refuses to quit even with a 17-33 record, will always be a winner.
I was pulled back from the precipice by this young fighter and won’t forget what he taught me. I don’t know what my future writing life will look like, but I do know, thanks to Charon, that I’ll have one.
My question for you: when you look at your writing life attitude, are you channeling your inner Charon?
Originally Posted: October 2019
Paul Sating is an author, podcaster, and blogger. His newest thriller suspense, RIP, is available now. He also has a new horror novel called The Scales that will come out later this year. He is the creator and host of the Audio Fiction With Paul Sating and Horrible Writing podcasts. You can find more information about him at paulsating.com.