I was in Barnes & Nobles last night. It's been a few months since I've gone, but I needed a hard copy of an audio book I'm listening to.
When I walked in, I had a weird moment where I felt overwhelmed by the massive quantity of books in the store. There were no more than usual but I guess I never really thought about it before. As I'm nearing the publication of my first novel, books represent a lot more than they used to.
It just hit me how much work was put into each of those books. The grueling process of writing, the even more frustrating editing process, the all-too-important cover design, the subtle but essential precision of interior formatting, the marketing push. Most/all of those things, by the way, indie authors often have to tackle all by themselves without guidance and only the ever changing direction of the internet as a tentative road map.
Looking out at those books, I realized they each have readers (past, present and future) many or few, but all of who will form all sorts of opinions about the string of words contained in their pages. But here's the thing. Here's the beautiful thing. The books? They don't give a fuck what anyone thinks of them.
I know it sounds like common sense, right? Of course. Books don't think. Books don't feel. But still, something about the thought grabbed hold of me. A book doesn't need anyone's permission to exist, it doesn't even need anyone's approval. You can love it, you can hate the fuck out of it, you can even be indifferent to it and yet there it will remain; unaltered, unaffected, regardless of how many times it floats through someone's consciousness. The books and the stories they contain will exist regardless and the thoughts I may have as the reader can't touch or alter a single word of it.
The books can, however, alter people. Books can make people feel things. Excitement, anger, annoyance, confusion, adoration. Whatever it may be, positive or negative, those inanimate objects make people feel. Just with words. Words that weren't even meant for the person who is reading them. But when the reader sets down the book, it will remain precisely the same as it was when the reader picked it up.
Not just that. All of those books will outlive us, regardless. They will exist long after we are dead. They will continue to make people feel things even when not a single person in the world is left to remember our names.
I don't know about you. But I'd much rather be a book.