Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking stock, setting off

Okay, so it's officially been over a month since I last posted here: my first and longest-running blog. I suspect anyone who's ever read The Written Nerd knows the reason why: my efforts have been shifted almost entirely over to the Greenlight Bookstore blog, and all the attendant activities and responsibilities of getting the bookstore off the ground.

I thought maybe I'd have more time for blogging now that I don't have a "day job" -- but it turns out there's not a lot of down time in entrepreneurship. I haven't yet succumbed to the dreaded "bookstore owners have no time to read" syndrome (just finished A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, now working on Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind and China Mieville's The City And The City) -- but it does seem to be the case that bookstore owners have no time for personal blogging.

For a little while I thought about officially retiring this blog. In a way, it's served it's purpose: I needed a way to work out my thoughts about books, bookselling as a business, the community of booksellers and publishers, etc. Now I'm on the verge of achieving the goal I confessed to in my very first post, back in 2005: owning my own store.

This blog has played a surprisingly big part in all of that. Someone asked me recently "do you do all your own publicity?" The answer is that I don't do publicity; I just talk about the store all the time in all kinds of forums, and The Written Nerd was the first. It introduced me to the folks at NAIBA, who asked me to join the board and brought me into a circle of smart and dedicated booksellers; it brought me to the attention of publishers who mailed me books for review and now are enthusiastically supporting Greenlight; it somehow gave me the status of "expert" on social media, author events and graphic novels, and I've gotten the opportunity to speak on panels about those topics and meet all kinds of new smart people. I haven't done a lot of chasing down reporters to get them to write about Greenlight Bookstore; the coverage we've gotten has come about in large part from the previous connections and visibility that's happened through The Written Nerd, and for that I'm surprised and grateful.

And this blog has also helped me to keep my focus through the last 4 or 5 years of wanting to open a bookstore, through the times when that seemed unlikely or impossible. I recently wrote a piece for the AOL small business feature The Startup about facing setbacks, where I quoted Laura Miller's recent book The Magician's Book (a critical study of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia) about the power of stories to turn hardship into adventure. And what is a blog but a never-ending story? Here's some more from Miller's book, which I've been thinking about a lot lately:

I was, of course, being sheltered by the traditional conventions of children's stories, in which the good are rewarded, the evil defeated, and the ending is at least partially happy. But getting to that happy ending was no picnic; along with the child heroes, I vicariously slogged through trackless forests and snowy wastes, took up arms against monsters, and wrangled with menacing adults. I was stirred by how much was epxected of the Pevensies. I wanted to be challenged in the same way. I wanted to be asked to give my all for a cause I could be sure was worthy. (And even at that tender age, I had an inkling that finding such a cause would be the hardest part of the quest.)

I was the same kind of child as Miller: longing for a quest, a great battle or a cause to give my all for. This blog, and the last five years of my life, have been about discovering that I've done the hardest part: I've found the cause. Now I'm dealing (mostly) cheerfully with the trackless forests, snowy wastes, monsters, and menacing adults, on the grand and Quixotic adventure of opening a bookstore.

But despite the fact that this blog has done great and noble service and could justifiably deserve an honorable retirement, I'm not going to shut it down just yet. It's nice to have a place to talk about books and stories that's not Greenlight -- that's just, still, my own. I noticed I have half a dozen posts in draft form that could go up any time, and I've got half a dozen more ideas for posts. I can't promise you'll see those here any time soon -- we're really in the final countdown to opening now and I think life is going to get more busy, not less. But I just wanted to check in, to reflect on what this blog has done and meant to me, and to let you know that it's not done yet. I've still got some more nerdy, overenthusiastic things to say for which this is still the best forum.

Really, the adventure is just beginning.