My entire life could properly be described as one of underachievement. There have been some academic successes along the way, but they have come to precious little in the end. I have avoided games and competitions of all kinds because I am equally uncomfortable with winning and losing. My goal in employment situations has always been to avoid being challenged, keep my head down, and simply try to get along. In matters great and small, my overriding program has been to attract as little attention as possible to myself. All things considered, it surprises me that I get so much enjoyment out of writing this blog.
There is one possible explanation, for writing the blog I mean, and that would be my tendency to maximize my efforts while minimizing my remuneration. One look at the Social Security Department’s record of my annual earnings would convince anyone of my underachiever status at the bank. Behind it all, however, there have been many individual years of hard work, often hard work with little money to show for it. You could say that great effort for little money has been the hallmark of my life as a wage (or fee) earner. This used to make my wife crazy.
The most glaring example of this poor effort/money ratio came in the third year of operation for my solo-practice as a lawyer. I had spent most of the first two years making appearances for other lawyers. That had paid the bills but it was not a recipe for actually making a living. The third year I decided to go for it. I copied a direct marketing scheme from one of my attorney clients and purchased the necessary software. I threw in some budget for other print marketing, got an 800 number, and off I went. I started spending good money every month, doing the work on the direct mail part of it my myself. I was working about sixty hours a week. It brought in a considerable amount of paying work, but the overhead was frightful. When my accountant did my taxes for that year, I ended up with a net income of $36.00 (thirty-six dollars). That was for the year. It must qualify as the lowest hourly earnings of all time.
How many Americans can say that their income records in their forties show a year with a total of $36? And during that year they actually worked hard every week. Thank God that it got better after that, and I did get a handle on the overhead before too long. One year like that was enough.
I wonder if I am applying this same illogic to creating books from ten years of blog posts. Writing the three thousand posts was an awful lot of work, notwithstanding the fact that I enjoyed the task. I didn’t make a nickel on it, but look for the good, there were no expenses either. Now I am probably throwing bad work after good in doing the necessary assembly for the books. After all is said and done, the ledger for the books will probably be hundreds of dollars in the negative, due again to marketing costs.
It’s silly, but after all, silly is my name! (Ceely is derived from the word silly, but it was so long ago that at the time “silly” had the meaning of blessed, or holy. Related, no doubt, to the modern German words die Seele, now meaning the soul, or selig, an adjective meaning blessed. Olde English was very Germanic a thousand years ago.)
Would it be self-aggrandizing to point out that Van Gogh painted for the sheer pleasure of it? He didn’t make a nickel on his art. It goes even further than that. I visited a client at his home one time (it was on my way; I saved him a trip to my office). He lived with his mother, who was a clinically observed lunatic who also happened to be a classically trained painter. The apartment was filled with her paintings, which were all quite spectacular, if a bit odd. The walls were full of them, and they were stacked everywhere. Every one of them had a narrative, there wasn’t an abstract painting in the bunch, or even an impressionist. Every painting was done in real oil paints on properly stretched canvases. My undergraduate degree is in Art History, and to my eyes these paintings were museum quality, worthy of cataloging and further study. She didn’t make a nickel on those, either, she was further out of the circle than poor Vincent. I may be the only non-relative who ever saw those paintings. The dust-bins of the world are full of lost art. Some of us do it just to keep busy.
So why not add to the confusion? I had fun writing this stuff; maybe somebody will have fun reading it. Besides, if it’s in you, it has to come out. I’m no Bret Harte, no, his reputation is safe from me. No H.L. Mencken, that’s for sure; no Robert Benchley, not by a long shot; no Jimmy Breslin, despite the similar accent; no Mike Royko, but maybe a vest-pocket Mike Royko. I am, however, what passes now for a Frederick Ceely in the world. No middle name needed, I may be the only one at this point. I have no expectations at all for making any money at this, and I’m way too old to think about starting a new career, but if I have any energy in me, then just like a silly, sad excuse for a seed in the ground, I have just as much right to struggle towards the light, and the notice of the world, as anybody else.
And look for the good! There is no comment section in a book, or an e-book. The Trolls will need to work harder to bother me about my shortcomings.