I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my content lately. Part of this is due to my renewed personal interest in this, my blog and some of the efforts I’ve been making in the last couple days to add some vast quantities of metadata to the same, while another part is due to the confluence of life events (including people announcing they are moving, professional discussions I’ve had, and the bombardment of my random interactions with the web and the impact they’ve been making on my opinions of social media, both positive and negative.)
Because of this I’ve decided to import yet another (related) post from my interim attempt at blogging — the ersatzowl site — that I tried to manifest as a “professional” blogging exercise, but couldn’t seem to focus properly:
In particular, I’ve imported (and annotated below) a post from early December 2010 shortly following the burst of cafe-seated effort I made (right around that as-of-yet un-described transition point in my career) to write “Jack, Cubed” which is — the NaNoWriMo novel of fifty-thousand words, and probably — one of my better attempts at long-form fiction in, well… ever. I don’t know if proclaiming that is a credit to my efforts — or an emergent sign of something else — but that novel has now existed for going on six months, and — having originally written the attached post immediately following having written the referenced novel — and also given the fact I’ve been thinking about such topics lately, I figured there might be something worth adding to the thoughts about the purpose, longevity, essence, marketability, and ownership of said content below.
In December 2010, I posted the following:
So, I wrote a novel. It was a bit of a whim. It was another bit of NaNoWriMo. And it was another bit of crazy. And the thing is that while (as one might expect with a NaNoWriMo kind of effort) I didn’t expect final-product-awesomeness at the outset, the end result is three very important things: (1) done, (2) a complete plot that makes sense, and (3) entirely readable. So this poses a very interesting problem, and one that I’ll need to answer as I move forward and refine, edit, and re-draft this first draft of a novel: now what?
And honestly? Six months on, “now what?” has been exactly nothing. I’ve not even opened page-one of the novel to give it another read over. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing (from an editing perspective) having vowed to put some time and distance between the words and the act of massaging the words.
That is, as everyone wants to know, what does one do with a pretty good draft of a not-so-bad and fully-enjoyable novel that one wrote entirely by oneself?
See, the thing is that most people might automatically expect a person in my (new) position to pursue some kind of sale-leading-to-publication deal, seeking out an agent and a publisher to put the thing to print and sell it in any old run-of-the-mill bookstore. And twenty years ago (back when I first started picking up pens, papers, and keyboards and considering that I might do something with them) that would have been my automatic answer, too. Get it published.
Not that the novel is mature enough to even considering publishing at this point, but that aside. Let’s assume (just like as with the decade’s worth of wordy posts I’ve accumulated in *whatever I happen to be calling this blog today* blog) that I manage to maintain and keep this bitty collection of sentences, paragraphs and ideas for some indeterminate amount of time, and at some random point — or points — in the future I opt or find time to do something useful with that text. Now what? Or better: What then? I think I still agree with my post below:
But the world has changed a little bit, and two other factors come into play about this finished work of fiction. It is (4) not in any way required to make me an income (ie. it was a hobby project) and (5) it is currently, fully, unequivocally, unquestionably my property in that (a) I wrote it, (b) I tracked plotting and writing it, and (c) I was unemployed at the time it was written and thus no employer could back-peddle and/or underhandedly claim some contractual rights to my creative work.
…which, on a side note, has proven to have been one of the very few, short-listed times, months later, where having been unemployed for that span has proved to be an advantage in my favour…
In my mind this presents a very interesting question: Specifically, does one pursue the short term benefits of selling this bit of content (my novel), get a little cash, maybe see it in print for a short run, and go along one’s merry way OR does one pursue the long term benefits of content ownership and put this as a first bit of intellectual property in a micro-media empire of some future date. In other words, am I selling or am I looking at this as a stepping stone for my own creative purposes.
And I guess those same types of questions have driven me as I’ve dusted off the old bradgarten (reloaded) blog in the last week and started sorting through years of back posts, adding metadata (as I mentioned) and started thinking about the breadth of my intended audience. I mean, this blog, whatever you want to call it — lost.in.vancouver, bradgarten, 8r4d.blog, nanosmurf.net, reloaded, whatever — has only ever lost it’s way when it’s tried to be something more than it really was ever intended to be: that is, when it tried to extend beyond a simple personal and observational journal reflecting the mundane reality of my life.
I mean, I look at the efforts I’ve made in the past few years at this thing called “professional blogging” — roughly defined at any effort where I was seeking an audience outside my own personal, face-to-face network while peddling some kind of knowledge or opinion in the realm of experience and ideas outside of a literal but scattered tracing of my day-to-day — and those efforts, while they have (yes) taught me much, (yes) resulted in some notoriety, and (yes) forced me to stand up for my ideas, and (yes) netted me a collection of text that I own, well, they were always sort-of written in a much more — for lack of a better word — commercial sense than this blog. The possibility existed to market that content… while that possibility never existed here.
And likewise with any fiction… there is a potential (if maybe not realistic) commercial sense to what was written. And I guess I struggled with defining the difference between the two while I was busy writing here, there and everywhere for so many diverse, fuzzy audiences. So of the novel, then and now:
Right now? I’m leaning towards retaining full ownership. I think I’m going to spend some time (starting in the spring, maybe) editting the draft, polishing it to my liking, and making it into a “final” draft. Then? We’ll see? Maybe a podcasted audiobook. Perhaps fodder for an online graphic novel of my own design. Or there is always the chance I could come up with something completely new to do with a full novel fully under my control.
So, yeah. There is a ton of things I could do with a novel. Spring is almost over, but perhaps in the summer or autumn… I haven’t swayed from this idea one bit, or deviated in the slightest from this notion. The idea of launching this story — assuming that any kind of interest ever generated — beyond my own personal control still hearkens to the analogy I made in the original post:
I mean, what would have happened if back in the 1930s Walt Disney had sold Mickey Mouse? He wasn’t selling. He was creating his own little empire.
And so with my renewed interest in my content, all that “thinking” I referenced at the top of this post in mind, it again begs the question of “now what?” I mean here I stand — sit, whatever — having resurrected a blog that was nearly dead for over a year. And why? Well, I’ve been over my reasons for the “why?” and I’ve put much personal thought into the “how?” but just like having written a novel all those months ago, having something so personal, so priceless, so sentimental (if nothing else) how does one answer the question “now what?” It’s all survived so far. All this content, it’s been through a personal shit-storm, the likes of which I hope I never see again (but probably will at some point.) It will likely all be around in a decade… I assume. And what shape will it take then, and who will dictate that shape? Benefit from that shape? Own that shape? Or even care?
With the “professional” stuff, the personal stuff, or the fiction stuff — it all connects back to one answer: “now what” means now I focus. Now, I think more carefully about what I’m writing, and who I’m writing for, about what the value of that content will be today or next week, but also a decade or two down the road. And ultimately, yeah, right now, this is about — perhaps not building an empire, but maybe — just tending a garden.