Today I opened my PO box and there was a shipping envelope stuffed in there, crushing my other mail. It was a paperback book I’d been waiting for, like a 7 year old would wait for Christmas morning. I tore the envelope out, ripped the packaging apart, and stared at my book through the bubblewrap for the first time.
It’s a proof copy, for a collection of stories that is never going to be released. I’ll read them here in NYC from time to time. Some stories might make it into real books that get published by real humans that aren’t me and don’t live here in apartment 12, other stories will only be in this proof copy, typos and all, and will die in it.
I hold the new book up, and look at it, and wonder how much beer I’ll accidentally spill on it before I throw it away.
I like making books like this, for myself, so I can have everything in one place and not be reading off my phone or juggling paper while I’m standing up there in front of people. I do the same thing with poems, when I get enough of them, I just make a fucking book. Nobody’s gonna see it. Nobody is going to get a sales pitch about it. It’s not for sale.
Sometimes ‘just making something’ and not considering it up for sale or some big other thing makes the world spin a little better for the person standing on the wobbly world.
Anyway, I like designing books, I always have a fun time with it. I don’t have anything fancy that I use to make these books. All I use is this: Pages for Mac, a simple word processing program that can save/export the file as a PDF, and Photoshop. That’s it.
Interior is done on Pages/Microsoft Word, exterior is done in Photoshop. I upload the files to any POD book maker: Lulu or Createspace are crappy but cheap, so I go with them.
Files uploaded and reviewed and when I’m happy with the way the digital proof looks on the screen, I hit the approve button. The company mails me a proof copy for $3 plus some shipping and that’s what I keep—the flubbed up proof. It stays a proof that I never approve. I hang onto it.
There’s nothing cooler than holding a finished book by a press who really knows what its doing, that’s had a team of editors and designers labor over it in conjunction with an author, for months, to finally hammer out a PERFECT finished product, but sometimes it’s unbelievable to be able to make something yourself, in a weekend and have the damn thing in your hands a week or so later.
I’m not talking about self publishing. I’m not even talking about publishing at all. I just want people to go a little more ‘art psycho’ and stop worrying about making a perfect product. Fuck a product. This is a project to screw around with so you don’t go crazy.
I’m a kid from the 80s, and I feel lucky that we can make books on a home computer now, that we can record our own albums, movie … so on so forth. Making shit makes me happy. I remember being thirteen years old and saving up my money to buy a four track tape recorder so I could make music in my parent’s basement. Guitar recorded over guitar. Over drums. Over noise. Over the click and clutter of anything laying around. That felt like a miracle. Magnetic tape. Look at things now, we can make an album on our computer, on our laptop, on our cellphones. Technology is wide open for the kid screwing around and making stuff.
A friend of mine last week told me he’s driven by childlike wonder. I guess I feel the same way. It feels really heavy to worry about all the mistakes. But you only have to fix the mistakes if your project is released for real. In the meantime, how can you find the mistakes in the first place if you don’t make yourself a book and hold all the fuck ups in your hand?
Do something creative every day. Do something destructive every night.
I work in an oil refinery, and part of my work is welding. Whenever somebody finds out I weld, there’s a 50/50 chance that they will ask me this question:
“Do you make giant metal sculptures?”
I don’t, I live in a small apartment on 173rd Street. I can’t even have a barbecue grill in this place, so I’m not welding together 90 foot tall Grateful Dead bears or anything like that. But, I am welding stuff together, just without all the fire and smoke and potentially burning my building down. I’m welding together shitty little art projects on my home computer, most of them have to do with writing. I’m welding together poems and short stories with Elmer’s glue sticks.
Last month I had a reading a Mellow Pages in Brooklyn and I had some new poems I wanted to read but I didn’t have them anywhere in a book to read, to hold, so I printed out the poems on my home printer and I cut the poems out, to the size of the book (was a 5.5″ by 8.5″ size) and I used a glue stick to paste the new poems over the old poems I liked the least in the book. Those poems are dead now, haha. The new poems that I like better are glued on top. That’s one way to work on your manuscript, smother the things you don’t like with glue until they die.
Bud Smith‘s books are the novels Tollbooth, and F-250, the short story collection Or Something Like That, and the poetry collection Everything Neon. He works heavy construction in NJ, and lives in NYC. www.budsmithwrites.com