Sunday, July 5, 2009

Publishing = Creating a Public

My journey toward publication of The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility has been fraught with doubt. I've kept soldiering on anyway. But this past week I felt incredibly empowered by a new way to look at publishing. Here I quote writer/editor Matthew Stadler:
"In English, publication includes the word ‘public’…publication is the creation of a public. Publication is a political strategy. It is not an attempt to make beautiful objects. It is not an attempt to make an accurate record that can be stored and archived… There is no pre-existing public. The public that we hear about, which we think about often to our own discouragement, is itself a fiction created by political actors to lend moral authority to their choices. I am interested in publication because I want to create a public. I live in a culture, in a country, that uses the fiction of a mainstream public in many ways that I find discouraging, negative, and disempowering but I don’t believe the notion of and the experience of a public needs to be that way… It is imperative that we publish not only as a means to counter the influence of a hegemonic public, but also to reclaim the space in which we imagine ourselves and our collectivity. We feel lonely and powerless when we accept the myth of ‘the mainstream public.’ When we accept that fiction we relinquish our ability to form our own collectivities and draw hope from them.”

In the loud, clamoring marketplace, I usually feel lost and out of place. I don't write potboilers with zinger tag lines, so it's easy to feel invisible. But I've clung to an intuition that there is an audience for my work: a few people will love it, and then a few more, and a few more. Stadler's viewpoint gives some muscle to that hunch. I love the idea that I'm taking political action by writing what feels true for me ("market" be damned), then joining the self-publishing revolution to bring it to the world. How freeing to let go of that vast, oppressive cloud of "the mainstream public"! Each of us who creates is building not only a piece of work, but a network of invisible connections among those who admire that work: a new public, a new family, a new community. Large or small is of less importance than the nature of the connections. It is through such bonds that energetic shifts take place and worlds change, both inner and outer.

For bringing Stadler's ideas (and the quote above) to my awareness, I give a big Thank You to Shannon Yarborough and his essay "Why Do We Publish?" in The LL Book Review.


  1. Yes, great thinking here, Brent! It puts into words something that has been brewing in me also. thank you!

  2. Yes! There's so much that goes into the choice to publish when "the world" out there is telling you that you can't, or shouldn't. "Building a network of invisible connections" is a wonderfully empowering and positive perspective - so necessary in the battle against self doubt and second guessing.

    Thank you for soldiering on and sharing!

  3. Great ideas, Bret...that network looks like your book cover. Let's put the public back in publishing!

  4. The challenge is always finding ways to connect with people whom we want to hear and who want to listen to us. A public is a large order of friendship.


  5. I love this. It's always useful calm the mainstream-panic by reminding ourselves what exactly we're doing and why. Susan Barrett Price