After talking to Jordan Harper on the phone yesterday, where he listened to me struggle with my low numbers for my last book, I’ve come to a couple conclusions.
The first of which is that the low numbers make sense. Who’s gonna read a short sequel to a short book, with no 3rd or 4th or 5th part in 3 years? The goal now is to get 4 and 5 out quickly to complete the cycle, and perhaps even bundle all five together in one collection.
I conceptualized the story as five individual short books for a very specific handful of reasons: I wanted to tell it episodically, wanted each part to be easily digestible, and to experiment with hyper-short-form novelettes. Still a great idea, I think. The problem is the gaps in time between installments. They are too spare to allow too much time to pass between them. Black Gum in 2015 and then A Minor Storm in 2018 and then Tomahawk in 2021 would be fine if they were full-length novels. Not so much ~100 page minis. So Wolf Like Me will follow in a few months, followed by Stick Talk soon after that. Then I’ll leave Shane and Charlie alone for a while, until it’s time to come back for another cycle.
I’m thinking I’ll wrap up Dying World some time in May, and then I’ll set about to putting that one out. The goal is to print off short runs of it through BookMobile, in order to experiment with alternatives to Amazon. Although, as I’ll discuss below, experiments outside of the monoculture are fraught in 2021, especially if you don’t have a large built-in audience. Nevertheless!
The second conclusion is that I have to get back on Twitter in some limited capacity. This gave me pause, the same way an addict might feel if someone waved a tasty beer under his nose. Twitter and I don’t interact well. Whatever the spells they’re casting over there, they work on me!
But the monoculture is too strong at this point in time. There are about three places that people go when they log on these days, and those are social media websites. It is what it is.
So, a strategy needs to be in place. The way mine looks is as such:
- No Scrolling: this is pretty obvious. I am absolutely, under no circumstances, allowed to swipe my thumb to observe the TL. As soon as you scroll, you begin to see takes, and once you see takes, you have a reaction to those takes, and before you know it, you’re back in it, giving a shit about Dr. Seuss for some reason.
- Schedule all tweets through HootSuite. I have today’s tweets all scheduled. They are cool pics I’ve found online, a thought on a movie, and a thought on Sekiro. The main purpose of this rule is to keep me from spontaneously tweeting, which is (almost) always a bad idea, or at the very least a waste of time. Social media skews reactionary, and I am trying to approach everything I do on the computer intentionally. So it’s just a matter of scheduling tweets, letting them sit, double checking them, then letting them out into the world.
- Very little personal stuff. I will post about sobriety, maybe a little about my family when the time comes, and little things like movies I watch, books I read, and games I play. But no cutesy observations about things. That’s stuff that can go into books, if they’re good enough. Complete waste to toss them into the stream and watch them get carried away.
- Never, ever log on when I’m pissed off. Ever. Everrrrrr. Intentionality matters, and I refuse to contribute to the circular firing squads or general spread of negativity on the internet. As Aesop Rock said: “Wanna win? Don’t play.” Intentionality is huge (see point #1), and the same way I wouldn’t enter into a discussion with a friend if I was looking to pick a fight, I won’t enter the public space of Twitter if something is bothering me. It is what it is. I’ve been rereading Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think in preparation for a new episode of No Country, and the Runa Puma people’s view of the world through a lense of predator/prey is helpful in this context. They say: when you go to sleep, deep in the Amazonian rain forest, do not sleep on your back, because a jaguar will see you as prey. If you sleep face-up, the jaguar will recognize you as a human, and go elsewhere. You have to apply some perspectivism to Twitter as Jaguar. If you enter the space showing your ass, it will recognize you as prey, and you will be eaten. If you come in as an inoffensive player in the spread of content, maybe it won’t. I guess it all depends on how hungry the jaguar is at the time.
Anyhow, hopefully this all works out. I have no real illusions about Twitter’s ability to “spread my work” around, but I have seen the other side of things, and people completely forget you exist if you aren’t in the mix in some capacity. For someone who wants to write for a living, you can’t turn your back on it, unfortunately. As much as I crave a quiet life away from the noise, these are simply not the times we live in. Especially if you are doing this independently.