No definitions today, no argument or debate. A couple of very personal thoughts.
First thought has to do with self-publishing. Everyone, it seems, is doing it. A few hold themselves to the highest standards of research, writing, editing, design, etc. Over the years I’ve seen a handful of excellent self-published books. At the other end of the spectrum are poorly written, in-need-of-editing, cheaply packaged vanity offerings, the bane of any bookseller’s existence. And of course there is a wide range in between.
Well, I’m self-publishing my stories, and (as is the case with my blogs) without benefit of an editor, but my stories are not on paper, not between covers, and you don’t have to pay to read them. I’ve been putting them here on my blog (most recent on previous post), tossing them out into the world like messages in bottles cast out upon the waves. They may sink, or they may swim, but anyone can read them or not, like them or not, all without spending a cent or taking home another book to crowded shelves. If I had a publisher, I’d also have an editor and a publicist and a book designer and more, working on my behalf to make my book worth its cover price. Don’t have that. Am not asking for money. Am not competing with writers who have given their lives to the hard work of writing. (I have given my last 19 years to the hard work of bookselling, and I’ve learned a lot about writers’ lives in that time.) For now, my primary identity is as a bookseller.
Second thought occurred to me years ago in another context and was reinforced by my recent reading of William Stafford’s Writing the Australian Crawl. That is, the quickest way to kill one’s inner creative spirit is to be afraid that “It will never happen again!” I could hold onto these ten stories and nurse the dream that someday they might be published between covers under the aegis of a real publishing house, keeping them in a drawer until then, out of fear that these stories might be all I’ll ever write, but I need to have more faith in myself than that. I need to trust whatever mystery gave them to me in the first place.
I don’t know where these stories came from. All I know is that the first morning I woke up in Florida two years ago, the character of the first story was already in my head. I got up and started writing, and in two months I had all ten stories. They were not planned. Even the final story, the one that brings the rest together, was not something I saw ahead of time. So what I have to trust is that when my life is once again, for however long a stretch of time, free of scheduled obligations, more characters and stories will emerge from the mysterious deep.
Letting go of these, letting them out in the world without expecting a return from them, is my leap of faith.