Over the weekend I went to my first writers conference. It was actually a conference for writers and editors and publishers. You could learn a little bit about each facet of the writing industry. It was a pretty good conference. I’m no good at networking with people though. There was one instance where I was at a table with four or five other people and we were all handing our business cards to each other like it was a poker game or something. I felt like that guy in American Psycho. I feel like that guy a lot sometimes.
One conference session that I found extremely helpful was one about self publishing. I self published my first two story collections and I have my own reasons for doing so. The first reason is that I’m probably not a very good writer. At this session we met a woman who self published many of her books and she now makes obscene amounts of money. More money than she can count. She readily admitted this to us. She admitted that she can’t even keep track of all the zeroes on her cheques. This woman was extremely helpful. She writes books that I wouldn’t read on a dare. I wouldn’t read them on a bet. They are eBooks mostly so I can’t even say that I wouldn’t use their pages to line a bird cage or to house train a puppy dog.
This woman is a major success story. What made her so successful? In her own words it is because she, “dared to dream”. Her definition of “dare to dream” is apparently to upload a .MOBI file of your novel onto Amazon’s KDP Select Program and then wait for the cheques to roll in. Dare to dream! Not only does this woman make piles and piles of money, she also has piles and piles of readers. I’m willing to bet that I could never get that many readers if I lived to be 200 years old and wrote over 200 books. It just isn’t going to happen. I’m very happy that I went to this session.
You see, art is like food. Any type of art whether it be music or literature or television or movies. Lots of people like different kinds of art and lots of people like different kinds of food. Some people eat mainly junk food and drink a lot and don’t really care about putting vitamins into their bodies. Other people are vegans or vegetarians and don’t want to eat meat or exploit animals for their meals and nutrition. Some people watch Charlie Sheen movies and other people like Werner Herzog. Different people like different things.
I’ve always known this but up until recently I thought it was my job to tell people what types of art (food) I thought were best and why other types of art (food) were no good. I am getting closer to making peace with this idea. I know now that you can’t tell people what kind of art to like just like you can’t tell people what kind of food they should eat. I am definitely not the person to be telling people what kind of food they should eat. I don’t eat vegetables. I’m still six years old. You just can’t tell people that what they’re putting into their bodies or minds is complete trash. It’s not my job as a writer or a human or anything. As long as they aren’t harming anyone else with their choices then I have to leave things be.
BUT I had an EPIPHANY while I was listening to this woman talk about how once she mistook a $23,000 cheque for a $2300 cheque. Hilarious! We’ve all been there, right? The epiphany is that I write for myself and to make people happy with my stories. I want people to feel something through what I write. I have to also realize that no matter how sick and twisted some people may be and no matter how god-awful their writing may be, they probably want to connect with people in the same way that I do. There are of course people who only write for the money. These people are called mercenaries. I can’t do anything about them. They’re too rich.
There is a very handsome and well-dressed author who lives in my town. He is very well spoken and has good ideas and people like them. One of his ideas is to plant more trees along one of our freeways. Everybody loves trees. This is always 100% popular. Trees provide fresh air and they filter bad air and also help with sound pollution too.
My solution is that I want to be a tree planter. I want to stop “fighting the good fight” for the “right kind” of “good” writing. I just want to make sure that more people in this world are reading. Something! Anything! I’m going to plant so many goddamn trees in this goddamn city. I’m not going to tell people what kind of trees they should like. I’m going to create more fresh air in this city by planting trees. I’m going to tell people that reading is good. Read more. You have time to read more. You probably shouldn’t be injecting heroin between your toes but that’s none of my business. Please read more. Books, preferably.
I create events in my city that are meant to celebrate writing and writers. We don’t talk about what writing is best at these events. We celebrate the people who are brave enough to get on a stage and tell a bunch of strangers all their secrets. If people attend these events and then want to write a poem or read a poem or a book of short stories after this event then it just means that they agree that there should be more trees in this city and around the world. There should be more fresh air.
There are a lot of people in this city and around the world with a lot of different causes. My cause is that people should read more.
Just call me Johnny Appleseed.