Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The Vase: Part 2 of Why Self-Publishing Is Better Than You Think
He went to his masters and asked them what he'd done wrong, and they inspected the vase and told him he'd done nothing wrong. Keep trying to sell it, they told him. You've accomplished something great. Be proud. So he went to the public square again, his hopes higher than before. This time he announced loudly that his vase had the master stamp of approval. A few people turned their heads, but nobody bought the vase that day, either.
He went home, completely dejected. That night his friend knocked on the door, a huge grin on her face. She had sold her vase, she beamed. Didn't he see it? Didn't he see people flocking to her work? The man stepped back and shook his head. He hadn't noticed anyone looking at her work. He had been too focused on his own. Something started to gnaw at his heart. Something green with sharp razor teeth. He was truly happy for his friend because he knew she had worked very hard to get to where she was, but eventually the razor teeth bit him so hard that he told his friend to get out. He slammed the door. How was that fair? His friend hadn't studied under the masters. What made her work so much better?
The masters looked at him and smiled. We didn't lie to you, they said softly. You did accomplish something great. Keep trying to sell your vase. Every vase is unique. There will always be flaws. Accept them.
But what about my friend? How is it that she sold her vase and I could not?
Do you feel you want to be her because of that?
No, well…maybe. Okay, yes. I want recognition. I want to create a vase people will buy. Like hers. But…and he thought very hard before he spoke to the wise masters…I want mine to be even better because she did not study under you. Hers cannot possibly be better than mine. It must be a fluke that others are acknowledging her work.
Then what is wrong with mine? He turned away and thought of telling the masters how he had smashed his vase, but decided against it.
We told you already: nothing is wrong with yours. Keep working, but perhaps since you have not had luck with your current work you should try a vase in which you branch away from what we have taught you. We masters do not know everything. Customers sometimes tire of what our students put forth – not that it is of any less value – but we notice some of our students relying solely on what we have taught them and what they think others want instead of what they want themselves.Their true talent shrivels under this system.
He stood still for a moment, struck with the weight of the masters’ words. He thought of the shattered remains of his vase still on his floor and then bid goodbye to go sweep up the mess he had made. But, he thought, perhaps it wasn't a mess after all.
I hesitated to share this story with you. I don't want to dissect it and tell you what I meant everything to stand for because I think there are multiple layers and meaning that will work for each person depending on their situation.
One thing I'd like to say is in the years I have been writing and learning about publishing, I've learned two very important things: (1) Most writers would never write if they had no one with whom to share their work - publishing allows us this, and there are many ways to publish. No one method is inherently better than another, but other methods allow us to share with wider audiences. Wider audiences, however, do not necessarily mean better reception nor better quality of the work nor more happiness for the writer when all is said and done. This is different for everyone. (2) The method you choose will most likely change your end product.
Why Self-Publishing Is Better Than You Think Series
Do You Want to Jump the Fence? - August 26th
The Vase - September 1st
What Going Indie Will Cost You - September 8th
Whither The Author-Artiste? - September 9th
Influences & Self-Publishing Might Just Stink For You - September 16th
The Absolute Nightmare (or not!) of Formatting a Print Book - September 22nd
Cheaper Than Kinko's - September 23rd
Don't Listen to Me - September 30th