Thursday, 6 August 2009

I Have a Dream

So there I was, all miserable and Down With Writing and I'm Not Going To Be A Writer Any More Cos It's Rubbish, and Nobody Can Read My Book And I Don't Care, and then I went on holiday and had a nice time and my lovely not-quite-aunt was all nice to me and made me feel good about myself and I started thinking, maybe...

It's a dangerous word, I've been caught out before. I start out with maybe. I move on to a few perhapses, then a sprinkling of what-ifs, and before you know it I've got another Grand Plan. They start out small, and then get bigger...

It's like pushing a snowball uphill. I heave and I heave, and it gathers more material, and we get close to the top of the hill... and then two things are possible. I might stop to look at the view and get distracted while the plan goes over the top and down the other side. Sometimes I watch in dismay as it destroys itself and everything in its path. Sometimes I remain distracted and never find out what happened to it, wandering off in a different direction instead. But sometimes I find a little dip at the top of the hill, and roll it in. Then I surround it with smaller snowballs or pebbles, or maybe shore it up with sticks. I use fridges to keep it cool, and I start building it higher, making a face with lumps of coal or turning it into a giant snow tower. Finally I have something I'm happy with, sitting up there all nice with a spectacular view.

Anyway. What I thought was, it's a shame my book can't be read in English. There are plenty of people who want to read it. And maybe, in the tiny bit of time that's left before New Career, I could whack the book up on, give it a basic cover, and produce something basic for people to read? Just so they can?

But then I thought... if I did that, it would look pretty rubbish. And Lulu books in general, although handy for some purposes, are not the greatest quality. The covers are low-grade card and have a habit of curling, and there are often errors in production. So perhaps... I could create separate dust covers, on good quality paper... yeah, and I could make them really snazzy, with holes in strategic places to reveal the Lulu cover beneath in imaginative fashion, and I could wrap them in magic ribbon... cos the book is about the way magicians convince people of silly things... I could say that if you stroke the ribbon you'll become telepathic... because after all, if I'm going to produce the book myself, why not go to town? Why make something shoddy? But if I really went for it I'd have to have a proper book launch, cos it'd be a waste not to...

Hmmm, but this will take time and effort and money wot I haven't got... but to hell with it! Why not go All Out and make something really special! Why be in a rush? Wouldn't it be a shame to create something crap? Doesn't my book deserve more than that?

One of the problems with Being Published is that you have little say in what goes on. This makes sense to some extent: Marketing, cover design, typesetting etc, are all skilled areas which the author probably knows fuck all about. But you're also in competition with all those other thousands of writers, and it can be frustrating when your book doesn't get the attention or resources you think it deserves.

But... given that I've abandoned the idea of making a living from writing... and I'll soon have a proper income again... more than I need, in fact... why not put proper time and effort - and money - into producing a beautiful thing? Why not forget any notions of money-making or High Sales and focus instead on giving an enjoyable aesthetic experience to a small amount of people? Just for the hell of it? Selling thousands of copies is important if you're trying to make a living, and if you want Big Fame. But beyond that, what's the point? You can't get meaningful feedback from a high number of readers. The worry about sales figures bites deep into the fun and satisfaction of writing in the first place. Wouldn't it be better to forget all that and focus instead on making something lovely?

What if I set up a website called, somewhere people could come to help each other make Wonderful Things, with no attempt or expectation to make any money at all - indeed, with the assumption that it will cost them time, money and energy? Just because they can?

The ball was gathering so much snow, I was struggling to reach the hilltop. This website,, would take a lot of maintenance. It might become a draw for all those people so desperate to be published that they've lost sight of how to monitor the quality of their output, and would get pretty headachey very fast...

OK, let the snowball melt a little... go back to the core...

...which is the following two ideas:

(1) I wrote a book, I put a lot of effort into it, significant numbers of editors and agents liked it, it did get published after all (albeit in a foreign tongue)... and I think it's rather good. And I'd like it to be accessible, to people who speak my language. People I know.

(2) If I do it, I do it properly. It won't get big bucks spent on it by anyone else. The only chance it has of being beautifully packaged is if I do it. And why short-change it? If I'm in control of the process, why not make the most of it?

So, here's the plan: Over the next year or two, I'll design a beautiful object. I'll need help. I might have to pay people. But the priority will be on Making A Lovely Thing. And then when it's ready (in one year? two? who knows) I'll have two massive parties, just like I did for my first book. One in my home city and one in London. I'll tell everyone. I'll sell a few copies. I'll enjoy seeing them in people's hands. I'll make a massive loss, but I'll go to bed happy.

Will I reach the top of the hill? Will the snowball fall backwards and squash me flat, go careering in the wrong direction with my hands, feet and chin protruding at comic angles, dump me broken in a ditch with nothing to do but wait for it to melt? Will it go nowhere much at all; disintegrate on the first sunny day?

Fuck knows. But it's a nice little dream to smile about at bedtime.

That's enough for now.

(Then again...)



Clair said...

I don't know if I can be of any help, but I think this sounds like a great project. Count me in for the London party when the time comes.

Karen said...

I think you should definitely do this, and gather up some hype about it on the way, and then someone (hell, me if you like) will interview you about it for a writing magazine, and then your book will become a huge-word-of-mouth hit and before you know it, agents will be clamouring to sign you...okay, I'm getting carried away now, but you know what?

It could happen :o)

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Anything is possible Karen, but generally something like this is viewed as vanity publishing, and therefore the kiss of death. Successes such as the one you're imagining are very rare. I'm doing this because I've stopped caring about all of that (for this book at any rate), so I don't want to start having unrealistic dreams!

Clair, consider yourself invited.

Debi said...

I didn't get pregnant 'til I focused on the benefits of NOT having children. The jobs you get offered are the ones where you don't care too much or try too hard at the interview.

Somehow I find this all relevant!

And any excuse for a party ... x

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Anything can happen. Although to be honest I'm already distracted by the new career and think the self-published book is unlikely now... but there you go. Still nice to have a dream.