The beginning, part two

By Tom:

7 years ago I had a conversation with my wife that changed my life. In fact, it led to many changes in our lives.

First, and most obviously, it led to the creation of Mother’s Milk Books. Second, and less obviously, it led our family away from the standard model of two parents working at salaried jobs, juggling domestic responsibilities, and toiling through the decades until retirement. Ideas – subversive ideas about independence, self-determination, embarking on projects for their own value rather than financial reward – began to germinate.

While Teika was learning just how much there was to learn about publishing, and growing the press one lovely book at a time, I was continuing with my career in academia: studying the brain and trying to work out how a peculiar and fascinating type of cell processes information. Now, academic science these days is largely a specialist’s game. To thrive, most scientists become expert in a niche, and move that subfield forwards incrementally, with the occasional exciting discovery that has implications beyond the specific community. Luck plus diligence can sometimes uncover something epic. But this model can also be quite limiting. I found myself asking larger questions: how does what I’m learning about brain cells relate to behaviour? What is motivation? Why are some people so much more energised and productive than others? Where does self-discipline come from? Why do we do the things that we do?

It turns out that if you combine these sorts of ideas with the midlife milestone of turning forty, you end up with a quite dramatic change in worldview. There is a mountain of literature out there on the psychology of success, motivation, behavioural change and creativity, and I devoured it greedily. The key message is this: humans are weird and don’t do the things they say they want to do.

So, while Teika provides the insider information from the world of publishing, I’ll try and complement it with what I’ve learned on how to prepare yourself psychologically for the rigours of getting books written, and persisting in the face of what can be a punishing litany of rejection and disappointment. Writing to express yourself is wonderful, but for those that want to share their stories and ideas with the world, and move others emotionally, developing the habit of writing for readers and sustaining inspiration and motivation is essential. It pays to prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.

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