Saturday, November 24, 2007

I was reading a review of the new Bob Dylan movie, and it talked about a scene where a "reductive" journalist is trying to tear down Dylan.


Great word. Just the word I was looking for.

I don't think that I'm a Chicken Little, and I don't even think I'm all that negative or cynical. But I do think I have a tendency to be reductive.

The right word is almost the essence of writing, I think.

I tend to reduce things down to the core. And most of the time, I come to the conclusion that it just won't work. The bumble bee can't fly.

Most of the time, life being would it is, I'll be right. But it's the small percent of the time where something unusual happens where life progresses.

When I was writing novels, I didn't know how difficult it was to be published. Or perhaps I knew, but I preferred to ignore it. I sent my first novel off to publishers "over the transom" , as they say, and got acceptances from two publishers. Later I found out that that was almost unheard of, that they get thousands of manuscripts per month, and rarely do any make it out of the mail room. I kept writing, but the more I knew the more discouraged I got. I began to realize how few writers actually make money, and how much of a gamble it was every time; that spending a year or two of my life and sending a manuscript out into the void, wasn't a good gamble, even with an agent and even having been published three times in a row.

I never intended to quit writing, but Pegasus just sort of took over my life.

I had ignored all that when I started, and being published was the transforming incident of my life. It turned everything around. It's how I got involved in Pegasus, and how I met my wife.

Same thing with small business. The statistics are pretty dire for success. But people keep trying. From my perspective, sometimes, it seems as though nobody actually makes money. I know that can't be true, but it seems like it. I suppose one should define success. If a store pays for an owners lifestyle for, say, five years before he moves on to something else, is that a success?

Only the owner (or writer) knows if he had the talent and perseverance to succeed. I could see a store succeed in an overstuffed market, and fail when it has a monopoly.

Of course, it's best to work the odds.

My nephew Sam is like this world famous d-j in his chosen field; drum and bass music. He flies all over the world, sells vinyl off his website. (Lost Souls, is the name of his label.) But he pretty much has to leave Bend to get anywhere.

I told him; two things I didn't realize while I was establishing my business. One, that I had a product mix that was always going to be limited in sales; and two, I have a population base that was always going to be relatively small.

He's doing a type of music that's extremely popular in Eastern Europe, for instance, but for which there is no following in Bend. To be reductive, he either has to accept the ghetto where he is by all accounts very successful, or expand into a type of music that has more followers.

My store seems to be just successful enough in it's specialized field for me to stick with it; hedging my bets, as much as a I can, with other product. It would be a huge leap to become a full bookstore, for instance, and I feel some obligation to my comic customers. I like comics, but they just will never be incredibly lucrative.

Yesterday, I had tons of people in the door, but almost none of them were really into what I was selling. I've succeeded, to some extend, in broadening my appeal in toys, books, and games to get some of their business, but it's always going to be limited by the fact that I make most of my money from regulars buying specialized material.

Anyway, in looking around the business scene in Bend, it's very easy for me to be reductive, to limit the chances of success for everyone else. And, as I said, I'll be right most of the time.

Somewhere out there is the most ridiculous business I can think of -- that will be wildly successful. But it seems to me, that the exception doesn't prove the rule, so I'll continue my reductive ways because it is a crucible that seems to work.

No one should take offense if I doubt that most of these new businesses have much of a chance; statistically, it's true. In a reductive, common sense sort of way, it's true. But you may be the exception.

1 comment:

The Natives Are Restless said...

I must say, I enjoy reading your blog because I have a feeling that we have much in common. I tend to agree with you more often than not. I also think that we possess a very similar intuition, if you will. Mine hardly ever fails me.