At the end of every year, many people make lists of their favourite books of the year. This isn’t all that unusual in the indie scene, but I find it peculiar how we pay more attention to books than singular stories, poems, or essays. An element of consumerism is glaringly apparent, as the lists of singular pieces are few and far between.
I find it challenging to compile collections of work. My brain just does not work that way, and I loathe the idea of what I write not being out there for public consumption. Whatever I create is immediately sent out to a journal or published on my blog. Constantly putting out writing is crucial to me, and it is vital to my need for success. This inability to curate a book does not work in my favour.
While this is most likely not the case, I can’t help but see a discrepancy in the judgement of books and singular pieces of work. If you compare the responses to a single short story and a collection of them, the latter will receive far more attention for the immediate reason we can hold in our hands. “John Smith’s collection of stories is bound to rattle cages. This book is something I will cherish.” “Check out John’s story about a killing time machine. It’s good!” We don’t realise it, but we somehow hold less passion for singularity. Simply being a bound book puts you at another level than if you published a story in a Journal.
When people discover they like my work, their immediate question is if I have published a book that they can buy. In their mind, using their own money to purchase something I wrote is the epitome of support, but that isn’t the only way you can promote a writer. I have discovered that people can be very stingy with their praise/support. We are unwilling to boost those who don’t receive much attention because they have to earn it, as though we as readers are God. However, this frugality almost disappears if said author has published a book. Isn’t that wild?
Many of us like to own things, understandably. Possessions can bring us joy, almost to a fault. We live in a consumerist society (an observation that is nothing new). In publishing, this does not help to propel the beauty of writing forward. We are never free of preconceived notions, no matter how well-rounded we are. Focusing your praise and attention solely towards formed books limits your consumption of equally exceptional work. I am not free from this, as the only list I made last year contained books, but I had planned on curating one for singular work. However, I had not collected favourites from the start of last year so it wouldn’t have worked. I aim to rectify this issue this year.
When you see a short story you like, bookmark it and boost it on social media. Talk to your friends about it. Promote singularity the same way you do for books. It should not take for somebody to write their magnum opus for us to pay attention. Authors should not have to earn your respect. It should be given until there is a problem. Stop guarding pleasantry as if it is the rarest gold. Darkness continues to cloud this rock, so why not try to make the air sparkle a frequent practice?
In summary, our consumerist nature blinds us to the fantastic work of writers who do not publish books or who find it challenging to do so. At the end of this year, make a list of people who have published beautiful stories throughout. And, when you sit there with your finger hovering over the publish button, think about how that writer may be despairing over feeling ignored. Your kindness should not be something you reserve for only those you hold in the image of perfection. Be aware of how you put criticism above helping someone feel that their writing is acknowledged.