We all know the problem. We think … no, we are certain we’ve written a darned good book, but we have no idea how to make people aware of it, of its darned goodness, its … well, its—this is difficult for us to say, or even type—its merit. We don’t know who all these theoretical people are or where they are, much less how to convince them to purchase and read this book and then to speak and or write so highly of it that they convince people they also haven’t a clue how to find to do the same. This is our problem, but we already knew that. That may be the only thing we do know.
What are we, nuts?
But let’s not dwell too long on questions of our sanity, s’il vous plait (that’s French for “you are a crude American lump”).
“Use social media,” friends and strangers command with confidence-inspiring confidence.
“But … how will anybody find me in that artificial jungle of fact, fable and foolishness,” you respond with exceedingly furrowed brow.
“Oh … Well … ” (When uncertain, these people tend to speak in ellipses)
So you launch a webpage and a couple Facebook pages and a Twitter account and you create a desperate authors profile and you blog and tweet and chirp and squeak all over the goddamned place—feathers everywhere!—because this book you finished last year (or was it the year before?), you actually believe in it, which is as alien to you as herb-crusted goat cheese to a sturgeon. You spend hour after hour, every day, week after week for months creating a presence, branding yourself like a herd of Ponderosa beef cattle, friending strangers and estranging friends, waxing philosophical about the news story du jour (that’s French for “yesterday’s leftovers”), snorting publically about the day’s most vulgar political scandal, decrying this week’s mass murder, speaking out for human rights and against assault weapons (yes, some of this is good), letting the world know who you are, what you’re about, the cut of your jib, the heft of your rig. But whoa, pardner! There are a just few teensy-weensy problems.
You still have no idea how to compel actual sentient humans to click on your website (which is now six months out-of-date) or subscribe to your blog (which is sounding more and more like the ravings of a creepy little man locked in a closet with a hostile hand puppet). Your Facebook page, which has received “likes” in a less than one-to-one ratio to those given, is losing popularity fast enough to trigger a nosebleed, and since the second week of this campaign you’ve been recycling the same eleven tweets, all of which are about how difficult it is to find things to tweet about.
But what might be far worse than all of that is the fact that you are now adding another individually invisible frequency to the growing background rumble that keeps us from experiencing real life, distracts us from the peace of silence, the limitless wonder of nature and the stimulating illumination of art, cripples our social skills, saps our strength, undermines our focus, increases our waistlines and probably shrinks our goddamned genitals. You are voluntarily aiding in the mindless construction of what may become the most imposing impediment to the success and, more importantly, the appreciation, of your (or anyone else’s) work. And you are doing all of this, investing your time and money, in the blind hope that it, your work, will somehow find an audience, that yours is the voice that will somehow emerge, clear and true, from the numbing din.
Well, boys and girls, based on my most recent imaginary calculations, I’d say the chances are about one in forget it. But if there is another choice, I sure as shit can’t see it, because here I am reluctantly but knowingly participating in the very process I am bemoaning.
Do I suck, or what?
Well, not necessarily, or at least not entirely, because if there is a man-made antidote to all the toxic elements to which we voluntarily subject our beleaguered brains—the Internet, overproduced, computerized “music,” formulaic blockbuster movies, TV shows written and produced for the sole purpose of selling products, smartphones, mobile devices and apps designed to suck our scum-seasoned brains out through our eye sockets—it is The Arts.
If I do this thing that I’m doing well—this blogging and promoting and spewing and opining—if I somehow inspire a few folks to hop off at the next quiet little village, hike up a mountain, and sit by a stream to sit in silence and read a book or a story, perhaps even one of my own, I might, at the very least, be mitigating my part in fueling this runaway train. I might even be doing something more, which would be truly wonderful, and would probably make this maddening ride worthwhile.