The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Thursday, December 27, 2012


After all, in this society, if something isn't for sale, it might as well not exist -- and it's almost impossible to think of anything to do with something of value besides market it.
-Days of War, Nights of Love-

I spent the better part of a week in meetings. Meetings to discuss marketing of a book that I haven't finished yet. Meetings to discuss the possible business options that could be launched from the sucessfull marketing of said unfinished book.

I spoke with some brilliant up-and-coming businesspeople and with some brilliant established businesspeople. All were very excited about what could be if we marketed correctly. All had great advice how to make some serious money off of my ideas.

The problem is that I don't want to write a book that makes serious money (I mean, I'm not opposed to writing a commercially successful book, but that is not the main reason I write). I want to write a book that makes me a serious writer. I want respect from my writing peers. I want my readers to change how they see the world because my writing is that strong. 

Not because I sold a bazillion copies.

I want my name mentioned alongside other great and successful writers because I made something of quality that stands up against other authors of equal quality: "Oh her? She and Neil Gaiman are my favorite authors" or "Did you read that article in the New Yorker about her and Rebeccah Solnit? Aren't they just amazing with how they express sense of place?"

The thing is, just like one businessguy said, I could (with help) manipulate the system and write something that catches attention for a second before quickly falling into the deep well of conscious oblivion.

I could. I know the formula. I now know the people who could push it through.

I just wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't be able to stand behind what I wrote. I would hate my writing because it represented a part of me that I never want to give primacy. That part which is greedy. That part that equates success with money and popularity. That part which thinks fulfillment, joy, and peace can be bought and sold. That part which isn't creative; it is mechanical, rote.

I hate that that part of me even exists. I hate that, no matter how much I protest, the quote I put at the beginning of this post is true for me. I hate that often when I write, I can't think of it as anything but something that is publishable. As if getting published will actually validate anything I do.

I want to re-vision my work. I want a paradigm shift in how I value what I create.

I know from my week of meetings, that society is not about to support such a change in vision.  If I am to see my work differently, I need to see the world differently.

Such a change in perception does not come easily. Nor is it a light matter to value things that the rest of society does not. But if I am to have integrity and peace in my life - if I am to do true good and write truly - I must not falter because others so easily see a way to sell that ultimately twists my work into a deformed - yet commercially viable - monster.

Naïve as it is, I must create true things. Regardless if they are considered valuable by others.


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  2. Serendipitously, this reminds me of a passage I read this morning in Louise Erdrich's introduction to Winter in the Blood:
    "To be loyal to the earth and to the dead who loved you, to found yourself in all that is most dear, to observe without judging and write from your own direct core,is not ever the fashion. But it is always the right thing to do. Truth wears well, and Winter in the Blood is a true book."

    I suppose if someone says this about your book or compares you to James Welch or Louise Erdrich, then you have arrived.

    [This time with the correct spellings!]