"We are so bound together that no man can labor for himself alone. Each blow he strikes in his own behalf helps to mold the universe." - Jerome K. Jerome
Instantly enamored of Benjamin X. Wretlind's "Buy Indie Month" idea, I've been dutifully buying an Indie book every day for this month of February. Ben gave his own reflections on why he is doing this, why "dulce et decorum est." Now, unlike those ominous lines from Horace, I don't see any need for one to die on behalf of an Indie writer. But the lines from Jerome, above, more aptly summon the spirit of the thing.
Read it again: "We are so bound together that no man can labor for himself alone. Each blow he strikes in his own behalf helps to mold the universe." This sums up, for me, not only the motivation behind a project such as "Buy Indie Month" but also what should be, in my mind, the driving force behind a person's life. Selfishness, ultimately, isn't selfish if--and this is a big if--one's effort on behalf of oneself contributes to the betterment of society.
For example, a writer is inherently selfish. He wants people to buy and read his books. He believes that he has a story or a message that is so important that everyone who reads it will benefit from it in some way and be glad for the opportunity. The writer believes that he is privy to some truth that has thus far escaped the cumulative knowledge of human civilization. This is not only selfish but highly egotistical as well. But this is acceptable in a writer. The writer provides entertainment, he makes people think, he delivers messages, he makes connections between disparate ideas and those connections are what drive forward the great endeavor that we call "the arts." The writer is both a prophet and a historian, he sees the future, he reflects on the past, he makes sense of this grand adventure that we call life. I would even go so far as to say that the writer--not only the fiction writer, but the historical writer, the political writer, the journalist--is the most important member of any society. Before a speech is made, a writer wrote it. Before a song is sung, a writer wrote it. Before a film or television show is produced, a writer wrote it. And, indeed, before we can truly understand current events, before we can know what has happened in the world beyond the trivial business of facts, a writer has sat down, examined those facts and put them into a framework that makes sense of them.
The writer does all this selfishly, but look at the benefit to society. And the "Buy Indie Month" idea supports this, it supports not only Indie writers, but supports the continued health of our society as well. As Indie writers, Mr. Wretlind and I, along with Jeff Currie and others, recognize that there are many voices being lost to the cacophony of voices that make up the literary world. Some of those voices speak loudly and stridently and everyone listens. This is good. In most cases, those people have, through the strength of their writing, earned that consideration. But there are also many voices that seem to speak loudly only because they never stop speaking at all. And then there are the voices that are given megaphones--via media, publishing companies, etc--without having earned it. I think here of reality television stars whose ghost-written "books" top the bestseller lists.
But what those loud and persistent voices should think about in their selfishness is "what does my voice contribute to society? How am I helping to 'mold the universe?'" Should a writer--any creative person, in fact--be held to a higher standard than those who do not engage in any acts of creativity? Should we be responsible for the works that we leave to posterity or is it only about the immediate concern, is it only about the money? Should our selfish desire to be heard above the din leave nothing of value beyond our own gratification?
I say "no." I say that we should support the voices who truly have something to say. I also believe that we should support the small voices, the voices who haven't yet been heard. We should encourage those voices to speak loudly and clearly in the hopes that even one of them might become the voice of a generation, that one of them might be a voice that will change the world, a voice that will mold the universe in a way that will be to the benefit of all.
For this reason, we should--we must--support Indie writers.