Should you write a book? Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s been almost a year since the hardcover edition of Planting Dandelions was released. Last spring was a giddy season. Warm advance reviews were rolling in, interviews and readings were being planned, buzz was in the air. Though I kept my expectations in check, I allowed my hopes to roam wild and high, as dreams must do. When I got word that People magazine was giving Planting Dandelions a four out of four star review, anything seemed possible. (Damn you, Royal Wedding mid-week special edition for interrupting my moment! And Steven Tyler’s.)
The book continues to bring me joy as it makes its way through the wild world, and I expect it will do so for the rest of my days. The experience of bringing a book to market has been frequently confusing, occasionally confounding and constantly educational. I’m not quite as “green” as I was a year ago. But I would–and plan to–do it all over again, with honor and pleasure.
I love writing online. I love the immediacy, the intimacy, the community. I love writing for print. I love the sense of authority and legacy, I love the professionalism, I love working with talented editors who push me to write better. (Also, I love the money. Blogging has occasionally bought me a cup of coffee or put me up in a swell hotel, but a significant portion of our household income comes from my work in print.)
As a dual citizen of new and traditional media, I enjoy the best of both worlds. I have a vantage point that transcends the biases and blind spots that come from being wholly vested in one or the other. And both have plenty.
The line between traditional and digital media is less sharply drawn than it was when I began blogging six years ago, and it’s fast on its way to dissolving altogether. Back then, blogs and bloggers were the illegitimate, mutant offspring of “real” writing. Traditional media feared losing its authority. New media people craved it. Both got expressed as contempt. There was a lot of posturing in the vein of “Who needs you, anyway?”
Of course, we needed each other. And though there are still ongoing culture clashes, based on the old false dichotomy of THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE, the atmosphere of contempt and mistrust is steadily giving way to curiosity and respect.
Because there aren’t sides. There are only stories. And if you thought it was about the delivery vehicle– if you think it’s about books, or magazines, or video, or blogs, or bits of digital code–then I’m sorry, but you lost your way. Those things are objects. It’s fine to love them, admire them, collect them, sell them, create them, but they are only containers.
I spend a lot of time with stories, writing them, reading them, telling them, hearing them. I go to sleep with audiobooks every night. I keep up with over 100 personal blogs every morning. I owe the library millions of dollars in overdue fines for gorging on books. The immediacy of ebooks on my new Kindle Fire will probably drive us to bankruptcy. I sit in my driveway, held rapt by a radio narrative. I’m an omnivore of stories, and for me, there is no dilemma. It’s an endless feast.
As we move away from our attachment to the vehicle, I’m noticing recently a subtle shift in the blog culture’s attitude toward publishing books. As much as bloggers liked to claim they didn’t need anyone’s approval, the book deal was always the holy grail, the sign a blogger had “made” it. We were all Pinocchios waiting at the window sill for an agent or editor to come and make us into real boys. That’s more or less how it happened for me, and I’m so glad it did. I had a story in me that needed a book to contain it properly.
But that’s not the case for everyone. Some bloggers don’t need or want to write a book, even if they are good writers, with great stories. Like C. Jane, who explained yesterday why she was abandoning what had become a forced march to book publication:
I am a blogger. This is my genre…. Blogging allows me to have a living organism of words and photographs, hyperlinks and comments. Books, with their classic adventures, smells and something-in-the-hand-ness will always be something to esteem. But these months helped me realize (and I am so grateful) that I am not a book writer, I am a blog writer.
I thought that was a remarkable statement, and I take it as a sign that blogs, as a genre, are coming of age. On par with books (the best and the worst), but sufficient unto itself.
So why would I possibly write another book? Especially now, when social media is turning the conversation into the end goal? And book publishers and sellers are facing an uncertain market?
In fact, I think this is the best time to write a book. From a practical standpoint, books have entered a new era. E-book readers, wifi, mobile, search, social media, and the online marketplace have become such a part of everyday life that there has never been more potential for a good-quality book.
Considering how popular Asha’s website is, and how many opportunities she’s had to publish a book, it speaks volumes that she felt she could afford to wait for the right time, the right project, and the right publisher. And I share her excitement and optimism.
This is a thrilling time to publish a book– confusion, uncertainty, and all. It’s an incredible time to be a blogger. It’s an amazing time to be a reader.
And it’s the best time there ever was to tell your stories.