The Weird Accordion to Al book Is Gonna Be Lit, Y'all!
In April something absolutely wonderful happened. The Kickstarter campaign for the Weird Accordion to Al book did far better than expected. Usually with crowd-funding projects like that, you have to stoke the fire continually or it goes out and potential crowd-funders with plenty of other options will go on to the next shiny, pretty thing. But in this case I got a lot of great support from people and podcasts that have historically been wonderful to me, like The Long Shot and We Hate Movies, and the campaign acquired an incredible momentum all its own that carried it past the sixteen thousand dollar mark despite an intentionally modest two thousand dollar goal.
I was pulled in two sharply different directions by the campaign’s success. The sane, healthy part of my fractured brain was overjoyed. I was excited that a project had only attracted a tiny, if admirably loyal following online had blown up as a book and a crowd-funding campaign. How successful was the campaign? Let’s just say that in its online form the column has seldom attracted over five hundred readers at a time. Yet I had some four hundred kind-hearted souls contribute to the Kickstarter all the same. That’s one hell of a conversion rate.
This sane, healthy part of my brain knew I had a lot of work ahead but was, and remains ferociously committed to not only completing the Weird Accordion to Al book, but making it the best, funniest, most engaging and incisive book possible. That’s the sane, healthy part of me. The self-destructive side of my brain had a much different response to the campaign’s success. In dark, hushed tones it insisted that the campaign was a fluke, a sham, a grift because the book that would result from it could only be a flaming disaster.
This part of my brain is convinced that everything that I do is doomed to failure and while I try not to pay too much attention to my vicious internal hater the older I get, the more sense it makes. At this stage In my life, that awful, pessimistic voice in my head has receipts and evidence and examples it can point to to support its argument that I am forever doomed to failure.
This voice told me that of course the book would fail but that I could put off confronting that failure, and my own inadequacy, by procrastinating. That would serve two awful, self-defeating purposes. It would allow me to put off thinking about things that stressed me out and filled me with fear and anxiety, and, if I really procrastinated I could ensure that the project would be a failure, thereby proving that nasty internal voice right.
I went back into therapy after a four year break in part to break through this cycle of procrastination, fear and paralysis. I’m pleased to report that I am deep into the process of revising, editing, shaping and molding the messy raw material of The Weird Accordion to Al column into a slick, professional book nerds, geeks and Poindexters alike will be proud to have sit on their coffee table, bathroom floor or bookshelf.
And you know what? It’s going great! It can be scary and anxiety-provoking to revisit work you did years earlier but it can also be cathartic and unexpectedly validating. I was worried that The Weird Accordion to Al column would be too messy, self-indulgent and repetitive to make for a good book but I am pleased to report that so far the book holds together really well.
The combination of musical criticism, cultural criticism, history, autobiography and humor that has defined the column from the outset works surprisingly well in book form. I’m also realizing once again just how oddly empowering it can be to edit out huge swaths of your writing without removing anything essential.
I take an almost perverse pleasure in slashing my own work, in cutting out riffs that go nowhere and jokes that don’t work and running gags that amused me for some reason but that don’t belong in a book I want and expect other human beings to read, like referring to Al as an “American pop parodist” several hundred times despite that information not being of use to anyone reading the book.
When you’re writing a book with the potential to be 600 pages long, you look aggressively for things to cut and “American pop parodist” begs for the knife and gets it. I can also cut out three or four thousand words just by eliminating every single passage where I complain about the column not being more popular. I’m not sure that even had a place in the online column. It sure as shit does not belong in a book I hope will have a decent shot of finding a nice, appreciative audience.
Re-reading these pieces I’m struck again by just how much work this project has entailed. That’s been a theme of the column as well. I intended to make The Weird Accordion to Al a daily feature, and then a thrice-weekly feature but life, and the incredible demands of this site, along with fatherhood, made that tricky and then impossible.
It’s an enormous amount of work just to re-read all these pieces but my God is it ever worth it. It turns out I have a LOT of thoughts and opinions on every single “Weird Al” Yankovic album. As I had hoped, The Weird Accordion to Al isn’t just about one iconic artist; it’s about four decades of American comedy and pop culture and technology and food and television as well.
I believed in myself and my vision for the column and the book before I bitterly doubted myself. I’m proud to report that I think it’s going to better than I could have hoped. I’m about halfway done with the revisions and am excited, as well as nervous, about doing the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done.
It will be a beautiful thing to hold in my hands a book that I have written over a period of years for the first time since 2013’s You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like, which also took roughly twice as long as anticipated and put me through the ringer emotionally but that I could not be more proud of.
I procrastinated because I am terrified of both failure and success but working on the book every single day has reminded just how much I love the process of writing books, particularly the end result.
It’s been a real journey but I am not only hoping for, but working hard to ensure a happy ending for myself and every beautiful, Al-loving human being who believed in me and my vision and took a chance on the book.
It’s gonna be great!
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