If you're not familiar, DJ Shadow is essentially a collage artist. The majority of his work consists of pieces of other people's work arranged together. The clip is him exploring the gigantic secret basement of a New York record store, full of gigantic piles of old vinyl squeezed next to each other. He has this to say about it:
"Just being in here is a humbling experience to me because you're looking through all these old records, and it's a big pile of broken dreams. Almost none of these artists still have a career, really. So you have to respect that. If you're making records, and you're DJing and putting out releases, you're adding to this pile whether you want to admit it or not. Because ten years down the line, you'll be in here. So keep that in mind when you start thinking I'm invincible or I'm the world's best or whatever, because that's what all these cats thought."
There's a lot to unpack from this quote. It's a little depressing at first glance, but there's more to it than that. I think that the only sane way to justify any kind of creative activity in the long term is to think of yourself as contributing to something bigger than you are. The novel I'm working on will probably be forgotten, and probably sooner rather than later. That's not cynicism, it's statistics. But there should be new novels, and they should be good, and maybe even important, and good important new novels don't exist unless people try to write them. So if you think that's a part of the larger cultural that is valuable, it's worth trying to contribute to it, even if you understand that there's a good chance you might not be the one that gets struck by lightning.
If all of the above sounds to you like the reflections of someone whose books are not selling very well right now, you're not mistaken. No worries, I'm good, I'm still swinging, but it's safe to say that I'm in a regrouping phase. There's part of me that wonders if being candid about the trouble I'm having is a good idea, but one success I can point to in the past year or so is that I've learned a lot about the publishing business, and one of the things I've learned is that an awful lot of the people in it are full of shit an awful lot of the time. I don't want that to be me, especially since I know some of my writer comrades are keeping track of how my little experiment is going. I don't want to be putting bad information out into he world.
So here's the situation. I've put out four books over the course of the last year. The plan was to put out the books I thought would be less commercial first, and have my releases get gradually more commercial as I put them out, which in turn would generate some kind of momentum. It hasn't worked out like that. This is getting to be a longer blog than I'd anticipated writing today, so I think I'll stop for right now. More on this in the next day or two.