Thursday, April 25, 2013

Google Thyself

It seems like a self-indulgent and dangerous practice on the face of it, but once every few years I like to google my name. I did it this morning, partly because I wanted to make sure that the precautions I took to ensure that sim stuff wouldn't be the first thing a kid doing a book report turned up on a search.

It isn't; but you still get a hit for my Mod The Sims profile (on page 2) before you get a hit for Sullivan (p. 6). Not sure what to do about that, but now I know I should do something. I'll think on it.

And then there's the surprises - pleasant, not so pleasant, and simply silly. The first comment on a favorable review of 11,000 Years Lost at In the Middle of a Good Book, for example, reads: "this book was sucky too much reading." Yeah, it's true - the only reluctant reader you should ever give 11,000 to is one who's obsessed with the Pleistocene.

I ran across some reviews I hadn't seen before, many of them recent. But my favorite remark, on The Ghost Sitter, was on a Live Journal blog about "fanfiction and writing as a hobby." She (using female as the default for unknowns on the internet is more or less my custom) leads off a short, lukewarm review by saying: I read this a while ago, but I've been thinking about it. It's a good book, but one of missed opportunities, enough that I keep toying with how I would have done things differently.

I can not ask any better response, of anyone, than to keep thinking about something I wrote, and toying with it, and thinking how to do it differently. Maybe this toying will result in her writing her own ghost story. Maybe it won't. Maybe she'll write a better ghost story.

The important thing is, that this person whose name I don't know and whom I have never met, is having thoughts I couldn't think, that she wouldn't have thought had she not encountered my story.

Enough other writers have done this for me that I understand the value of it. The productive touching of mind to unknown mind may not be the primary purpose of art; but it is not a minor one. As a measure of success, I rank it high; and the knowledge that if it happens, I will probably never know about it, is one of the thoughts that keeps me plugging away on the days when I am certain no one cares and I'll never see print again.

Because I've been on the receiving end of this, so many times. Authors who only wrote one book - authors with good reasons to be dissatisfied with their literary lives - can turn up in used book sales, fallen between the stacks in the library, on a bookshelf in a bed and breakfast on a rainy day, fifty years after their own deaths, and provide the living spark that makes some other brain light up and shine with possibility.

And that by itself will make their literary lives worthwhile.

So no matter how big a failure we may be by any objective standard, we have not failed until every word we ever wrote is obliterated from the earth before doing this.

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