I was recently asked in an interview why I publish. I was thrown. It seemed like too big a question for a simple answer. What is joy? Why do we live? Is there a God? Why publish?
I answered a partial truth. Short answer: I fell in love with the idea of publishing back in my one month of high school when I first held an “underground zine” in my hands.
Titled A Wrench in the Monkeyworks, it was rude and revolutionary. It broke rules. It was crowded and chaotic. I loved it and realized then all I needed was a few dimes for the copier and I could do this. The seed lodged deep in my mind where it took root.
That’s the short answer. Years later I worked for a challenging weekly newspaper and I was quizzing the publisher’s wife on how they started their paper. It was a Christmas party and I was warm with wine and fan-girl enthusiasm.
“Right,” I commented when she paused. “Because who wouldn’t want to publish a newspaper?” She raised her eyebrows and looked at me with genuine surprise. “Not many… not many people would.” Since I was asked why do I want to publish, I’ve thought about my real answer. It’s this:
Publishing is the difference between playing a violin or being in an orchestra. One instrument—one writer alone—is beautiful and can accomplish great things. But in an ensemble their voices combine. Ego, differences, personal belief… all of it merges to become one, grand instrument that can change a world.
Publishing a magazine is like conducting a band. Balancing font (serif or non-serif!), style, image and text with white space and color create a unified voice from many. The publisher sets the direction, but it’s the army of graphic artists, layout, advertisers, editors, editors, editors, artists, office managers, writers, photographers, marketers and distribution teams that makes the behemoth move.
Yes, I know that magazines are not known for generating riches (but you can help with that by subscribing!). Publishing is about opening a forum to allow many voices to find air, and then immortality, in ink. The expanse of blank paper is center stage for a production that can be carried in a pocket and shared with a neighbor.
With a little paper, a little print and a dedicated team a mountain can rise from the shadows with a new world view. Why publish?