Passion • 10 September 2008 • The SnowBlog



The fruits of passion

'Passion' is a thing you're meant to have, and display in copious quantities, if you want to get a job - along with 'ambition', 'drive', being a 'self-starter' and all sorts of other qualities that have boiled themselves down to cliche through over-use. You know my view: working for other people is always an exercise in wearing a mask, and the degree to which you display management qualities is a measure of your skills as an actor. The passion I'm interested in, though, is the emotion I've felt since co-founding and running Snowbooks. Let's take a look at that. There are some veins of emotion that run throughout my history with Snowbooks which have remained at about the same level of intensity. One is my fury at being conned for 10 years before the veil fell from my eyes and I saw the world of employment for what it is: an unbalanced emotional contract between the employer (who - surprise - doesn't care one jot about you, it being a corporate entity without human emotions) and the employee (who gets suckered in to believing that his life should centre around his job, and therefore is surprised and let down when, upon resigning from the job, all he gets is the modern equivalent of a carriage clock (usually a mug, some chocolate, some booze, a funny gift - perhaps novelty socks, perhaps novelty condoms, perhaps an oversized card - and never a backward glance from the company he has worked his heart out for.) Another is my determination to prove people wrong. From the very start, most people we spoke to rolled their eyes and delivered a verdict on our business plan which didn't waver too far from 'it'll never work'. Funnily enough, many of those same people have developed selective amnesia and are big fans of Snowbooks now, which is fine - I don't mind since I was never after their approval in the first place. I don't think it's a unique attribute to feel that the more people push you back, the more you want to prove them wrong - and the greater the sense of glee when you win. So senses like fury and determination have remained pretty constant in my mind. But what about passion? It's an emotion of energy, something you have to keep up, something that can be as draining as it is energising. In my pregnancy, for instance, people have said 'oh, you must be so excited!' Well, not every hour of every day. I can't maintain a steady output of excitement for 9 months straight - I'd collapse. Passion could be said to share the same characteristics. And in musing that notion, it got me thinking. What, exactly, gets me out of bed every day? I haven't had a holiday - or even a full day off - since my honeymoon in 2005. I do at least a bit of work most weekends. My hobbies tend to be things that can benefit the business, like learning code, reading relevant books and using the internet. And I don't feel at all burned out. I don't have that sense I used to get at work of trying to gee myself up, thinking 'ok, it's the end of May now. I just have to get to August and there's another bank holiday then. I can make it. It's only three months.' Indeed, the feeling I get when we find a new book that we want to publish, or when a book we've just published starts to take off, or when we have a good week of sales and see backlist titles still selling well, or when people compliment us on a cover design or a way of working, is still as electrifying as ever. And on a day to day level, the sense of satisfaction I get from getting through my list, making sure everything is running smoothly, using technology to reduce the amount of time we have to spend on the dull parts of running a business, getting our books out there and selling, and revelling in the way we do things is as strong as ever. It is also bloody hard work, and hard to keep the cash coming in too - and knowing that only makes me more proud and determined. It also feels as different as ever to how I know normal companies work, and I still get very excited knowing that we cut out all the nonsense (the meetings, the office politics, the busywork, the manual data entry, the sign off procedures, the waste of money on things that make no difference) and get on with the bits that matter: the design, quality and presentation of our books. I know I'm going on, and you might think I'm being tiresomely self-congratulatory. I just find it incredible that here we are, five years in, and I still genuinely have this burning sense of passion about what we're doing. It's probably because I don't need to prove it to anyone that I still have it, thinking about it. If I had to argue my case at my annual appraisal, it would be a lot less convincing. If you don't feel passionate about your job, your life, the way you spend your days, do consider changing it. It's the kindest thing you can possibly do for yourself. I have met some wonderful people in the last five years who run their own show, and they are remarkable and I'm sure share this genuine, long term sense of passion that I'm talking about. I'm looking at you, Mr B's team, and Mostly Books, Salt Publishing, Tom at Legend and many of the other indie publishers I know. We've done the right thing. ------- Completely unnrelated PS: At university, one time, I got drunk on a bottle of peach schnapps. I have not touched a peach, or peach yoghurt, since - until this week. Turns out peach yoghurt is actually rather lovely - who knew - and I've eaten an entire 450g pot of it whilst writing this post.


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