Philosophy of Writing – 15.1 – A Thought Experiment About Books and the Donation Model

Posted on September 21, 2012 by

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Sin título / Untitled Acrílico sobre tela / acrylic on canvas 145 x 145 cm. - 2012 San Poggio | http://cargocollective.com/

Sin título / Untitled
Acrílico sobre tela / acrylic on canvas
145 x 145 cm. – 2012
San Poggio | cargocollective.com

Part Two is here if you want to read about the donation model and not introspection. (N.B. from the future: I’m repped by a fab agency. Decision made.)

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It’s none of your business where my writing is on the path to publication, but I feel like sharing. At the moment, I’m just another frustrated artist without official credentials.

I feel free.

Perhaps this is not the best emotional response to rejection. I assume if the rejection were less flattering I’d feel differently? I have birds in one ear telling me If they think it’s too risky they’ll search for a reason to reject you, which doesn’t ring true – well, it doesn’t bother me, because I get to spend more time with the manuscript under the assumption, true or not, that it has insurmountable faults that must be fixed.

Perhaps when I’m dead someone who loved me will get sick of respecting my perfectionism and publish the damned thing. It was pulled right out of my hands as it was being drafted by an independent publisher who said Write this. I’ll buy it when it’s done – without her, I might, perhaps, have never queried it at all. I thought I wasn’t good enough to be publishable. Just not good enough, full stop, lacking Goodness at Writing.

You read this and you think that surely I just suck. I can’t help you; I’ve always needed external verification for quality judgments because I don’t think it’s possible to make those judgments about oneself, neurologically speaking. I now suspect I might be “good”, perhaps even really “good”, but there’s no way to verify those suspicions unless that opinion turns into a statistical trend – and money is, I think, the great adjudicator in such circumstances.

What fills me up: daydreaming, sculpting the images, then detailing the sculptures until my work inevitably brings the original daydream back in force. I’m embarrassed I got caught up in this publishing nonsense. Of course it would be nice to finally settle the question about whether or not I’m a Real Artist or just a hack through the validation of people who are supposed to know about this sort of thing, but just because a question has been pestering you incessantly doesn’t mean you should give it leave to dictate your actions.

I don’t think this invalidates my earlier post in which I come strongly down on the side of “selling out” – I’m still all for it. If someone with money to spend comes along and says, cut this book down so we can sell it, I’ll say sure, no problem, how many words? and then make it work for them. I want to run the gauntlet of gatekeepers with my, what was it, “truly cutting-edge” fiction so I can take a diving bell to the bottom of the abyss where something is muttering about responsible adulthood and slit its throat with a gutting knife.

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Gedankenexperiment

Consider Possible World A, in which I feel no need to test the quality of my work against the investment power of a huge publishing company.

1. What job would I have?
None. I have financial means. I can and would write all day: fiction, blog posts, experimental vignettes.

2. What would I do with finished pieces?
Hire artists to illustrate covers, maybe frontispieces and insert illustrations if suitable. Find and hire a trustworthy typesetter. Release books for free in both print and electronic formats. Take absolutely no steps against piracy.

3. Would I expect financial compensation?
My means are limited. I can afford to support myself, but I cannot afford to absorb the costs of publishing my work. I would set up a way for people to donate money. Each book’s cost would be described in full, online, for all interested parties to view, including profits (if any). I would stop providing covers and print copies of my work if I couldn’t afford to – and instead provide pdfs, which are free to produce.