Never Rest, Do It Right

Orbital Operations for 26 November 2023

I’ve dabbled in self-publishing of various kinds in the past, and have been thinking about it again on and off for the last while. But I keep putting it off or getting distracted by other things. Either it’s the wrong time, or the wrong piece of work, or I tell myself I don’t have enough slack in my schedule, or whatever. End result is, I do nothing about it, and the stuff all turns to ashes in my notebook.

Musician Laura Cannell, from her newsletter:

I get asked this question quite a lot. Don’t you ever rest? Don’t you ever sleep? You do so many things! You’re so busy I can’t keep up…. etc etc. And to be honest these words never feel like a compliment, they feel like i’m not doing it right. That I’m not supposed to be making or doing as much as I do.

She does do a lot. She self-releases several records a year, does gigs and podcasts and sound installations and all kinds of other stuff. And it’s all self-starting:

I just go at my own speed and I understand that it can be a ‘bit much’ for some people, but I’m not doing it for any ulterior motive. I simply have to do and make otherwise I get really unhappy and depressed and frustrated and have no way to communicate as words are often not enough for me.

Anyway, another reason, not that I am explaining myself too much, for being so pro-active is that there are always things behind the scenes that don’t work out.

She operates her own small record label, Brawl Records. She puts out a fun little magazine with her sister, MARSHLORE. She’s recently made pieces recorded inside empty shipping containers and in a two-hour slot within an empty cathedral. She goes wherever the mood and the availability and opportunity move her, to make new things:

Amplify the Purrrsitive: The Healing Power of Cats is part of a Sound and Ceramic Sculpture created for the Raveningham Sculpture Trail 2023, where over 60 artists install work into over 3 acres of wild and mature gardens. The frequency of cat purrs help them to generate self-healing mechanisms in their bones and muscles. This can be passed on to their human friends.

The installation features 100 hand made ceramic cats (like the ones on the artwork) with the sound recordings of domesticated (but originally feral cats), it is set in a 15 feet wide willow bower/chapel which visitors can enter, sit and stay a while and enjoy the ear tickling purring of surround sound cats.

Because why not?

There’s a point here, and it’s this: waiting for permission doesn’t work. Sometimes you just have to sit down and do the thing before the idea turns to ashes inside you.

It hasn’t been this hard to draw attention to things in quite a while. But it’s still probably never been easier to get the idea out there.

Brawl Records lives on the Bandcamp service, although the very fine Bleep and a few others also carry their releases. MARSHLORE runs off BigCartel, and there are other services from Shopify to Gumroad to running it all off PayPal like wonderful Panel Syndicate.

You may not have Xitter or a non-algo IG or FB to use to tell people about your stuff effectively any more. But they’re still there, broken or not, and there are newsletters, podcasts, websites hungry for things to make clicks out of. Word of mouth is probably more important than it’s been in some time. Sometimes you just have to make the thing and put it out there to be discovered in its own time.

Something like four dozen people saw the Sex Pistols play in Manchester in 1976, but that one inspiring gig produced, from its audience, Joy Division/New Order, The Fall, The Smiths, John Cooper Clarke and Factory Records. Oh, and a band formed, after seeing the Pistols in London, to support them in Manchester - The Buzzcocks. You never know what your work will do to and for even the tiniest of audiences.

So maybe you and me just need to stop waiting for the things behind the scenes, put our arses in the chair and make stuff and release it out into the world.

Perhaps you will recognise “I simply have to do and make.” For some of it, it’s the defining compulsion of our lives.

Relatedly: Craig Mod has a new book coming out. Craig is an American author and photographer living in Japan, and has self published several beautiful volumes as well as remaining one of the long-time shining lights of the Republic of Newsletters.

"Things Become Other Things (TBOT)" is a book chronicling a decade of walking central Japan's Kii Peninsula and its Kumano Kodō paths. I've walked thousands of kilometers and talked with hundreds of people. This is a book about farmers and fishermen and kissa owners and adopted inn proprietors, about okonomiyaki ladies and foul-mouthed little kids. It's about the loss of industry — lumber, fishing — and what it does to a place. It's about depopulation and aging populations. It's a reflection on why I emigrated to Japan some 23 years ago. And it's a remembrance of the life of one lost friend.

Mostly, it's a book celebrating grace, and documents my searching for archetypes in landscapes and people — archetypes for how grace can and should infuse everything, even things coming to an end. Even things becoming other things.

You can read all about it at this link here.

He has self-published so many of these beautiful books, so successfully, that, this time, things are happening a bit differently:

"Things Become Other Things" has a unique publishing model. With the help of my membership program, SPECIAL PROJECTS, I am publishing the fine art, full-color photography edition (240 pp., 56 photographs, 68 chapters) on November 22, 2023. This edition is printed and hand-bound in Japan with an illustrated cloth cover, blind deboss and foil stamp, and exquisite matte paper. The trade hardcover and paperback rights have been sold to editor Molly Turpin at Random House. The Random House hardcover is scheduled to be published in Spring 2025. This is a truly one-of-a-kind deal/publishing experiment — me producing a fine art edition, Random House producing a mass-market hardcover — and one that I'm excited and grateful to be exploring with this project.

Because when you put your work out into the world, over and over again, with all the love you can muster, new things can and will happen.

My name is Warren Ellis, and I’m a writer from England. These newsletters are about the work I do and the creative life I try to lead. I send them every Sunday to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to , where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe for their own.

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