Apparently, according to a recent article in the Guardian, any writer who wishes to be taken seriously would be foolish to consider self-publishing.
Sadly, at one time, I would have agreed with this statement. Brought up in a family which, it turns out, valued dysfunction over compassion as an essential ingredient of genius – ‘genius’, you understand, being the highest accolade one could collect – I fell into that sticky trap of both desiring and despising the approval of others for my achievements. It is this sorry state that fuels yet another industry – that of publishing – within our brittlely constructed world.
The telling of stories is a vital element of any functioning human culture. It is how we learn to make sense of the world, how we distinguish between what is of lasting importance and what is ephemeral, how we explore and navigate through difficult emotions, come to terms with disappointments and have our self-delusory concepts exploded – in the nicest possible way.
This is why story-tellers have always held a position of importance in societies throughout history. The bards, poets and minstrels of our past, although not necessarily deemed as possessing high rank, were always regarded as essential, and the tradition of stories told around the camp-fire still has a place in any outdoor overnight gathering.
I guess what I’m saying is that the story-telling which is about, and for, one’s community will always be valued within that community. The moment it becomes removed from that setting, is elevated into a ‘pristine’ form, encased in parchment and ink, designated with an official seal of approval – it becomes something else. No longer a living, changing, experience of potential and imagination, it morphs into something static, worshipped and prized.
It is now not owned by either its creator or its recipients, but by a collection of officials, who all get to have a say about how it now functions in the world as a means to another end – that of staying safe.
For me, the wonderful world of subversive e-books and ‘print-on-request’ paperbacks, roundly condemned by the Guardian author as undermining the publishing industry – there’s telling – is a deep and powerful connection back to the roots of the oral tradition, when no one story was ever told the same way twice.
Now we have the opportunity – all of us – to share in the telling whenever we want, and to update our versions of the stories whenever that feels appropriate. We have the potential to bring life back, into something which threatens to kill it off by ‘serious’ ownership and false perceptions of ‘prestige’.
If you are in any doubt of the power of the rogue story-teller, track down the video of Maxima Acuna de Chaupe singing her story – the tale of a mighty battle between a small farm-owner and the force of a corporate mining company. A tale of true victory.