A story in my head first, a story on an online data storage cloud second, a polished Microsoft Word Document third. Translated into hand-written notes, print-shop hard drafts, PDFs, website code, .docx, .txt, .mobi. All those formats and I was missing the format that it truly belonged in-- and no, I'm not talking hardback, softback, or or eBook. Think... more of a metaphorical format. A format that transcends physical forms and data points and travels to the mind instead.
A book is a living thing. But think of it like a sea sponge or, for comedy, a sea cucumber. That sea cucumber lays on the bottom of the ocean (book shelf), filter-feeding on other creatures's byproducts (readers, critics). But it was put there by someone. God? Evolution? (Creationism makes more sense for this metaphor, bear with me.)
God made the sea cucumber for a purpose. Not to just sit there and feed on particles floating by or even to be eaten by another animal. He/She made it for a higher purpose. A diver, a first-time diver, on their first excursion to the sea. The first animal they see is a sea cucumber. They mistake it for a piece of coral first, but as it wriggles, they see it for something else. They pick it up and find that its squishy, not spiky at all. And they get to know that cucumber a bit. They go home and look at its Wikipedia page and read books on sea cucumbers (and get funny looks from librarians when they check out a pile of books on nature's most boring animal.) They go diving again, and again, and again, and find that same cucumber, and smile. That's my cucumber. And as they dive more and more, they see more sea creatures. They learn new things. And they perceive their reality differently. They have a new sense of wonder about the world. All thanks to that one sea cucumber.
I may or may not have lost that little gem of an extended metaphor, but the fact remains: my story is more than words on paper. It's more than ink on a page. And in the future, it will be more than a book on a shelf.
Those words might inspire someone to write a story themselves. Someone might see those ink strokes on a page and want to produce some fan-art. Someone could read my main character's struggle to want to stay alive in an apocalyptic wasteland and become inspired by his strength. You just never know. Those infinite possibilities that lie within something as simple as words make it special. Luminous, alive, beating, thrumming with meaning and potential and worth.
That is what I've made. No matter what happens in the future, published or not, I am proud of what I've done.