Getting Serious

Well, I’ve sold a couple of pieces now. This is the time when a writer asks herself the question: am I going to go on? Am I finished? Not writing, of course–I know full well I’ll never be finished writing. I am going to die with my last piece unfinished, and people will say what a tragedy it was, but really, the greater tragedy would be to be finished, with nothing more to say, and know you weren’t going to write anymore. To know that the passion of your life was over, but you still had to struggle through more time on earth without it, and with your health failing to boot. No, thank you.

I’ve gotten sidetracked. My point was, do I want to go on being published? Do I want to try to start up this huge machinery of bureaucracy and red tape, in the faint hope of reaching some readers?

The answer is yes, of course. I can even tell you why: it’s contained in that last paragraph. I am old enough and well-read enough to know that publication is not a magic wand that will fix my life, or make me rich and famous (writing is so not the right profession to go into if you want rich and famous). It’s about reaching the readers, it’s about making the connection, all the stuff I’ve been talking about in this blog.

However, I’ve also said that one reader is enough to keep me going. (I still need readers, by the way, see the sidebar for a link about that.)

So here’s the watershed. If I keep trying to get published, building on my small so-far success, I risk failure. I risk success, too, sometimes even more scary. Because it means work, it means that moment when someone asks what you’ve done for them lately, it means deadlines, it means the temptation to spend advances before you finish the book, it means writer’s block could become career poison instead of just frustration. Beyond that, if I am successful, it means the work of self-promotion, which I am deeply unsuited for, and if I am wildly successful, it means one day having to regretfully write a form letter that I can send people who send me fan mail because I just can’t cope with the amount anymore. All this is a depressing prospect.

The compensations? Well, money is always nice. I don’t think it will be much; almost every published writer (including Stephen King, who keeps handing out these disingenuous confused gosh-why-am-I-so-hot forewords) says that 99% of writers would have made more money wielding a nail gun or a calculator for a profession. Fame, if any, is not nice, as far as I’m concerned. I want friends, and I want family; I fear fan-devotion in great numbers.

But there’s that other thing. That shining, untouchable, indescribable thing. That gift I need to give back, as so many authors have given it to me: that moment of wonder, of connection, of recognition, of learning, often all wrapped up in the same turn of phrase. Reaching out to touch another mind. How could I resist the siren call of that?

And above and beyond that, it’s another thing for me, too. This is going to sound very vague and philosophical, but here goes. The writing itself is an act of power, as I’ve discussed before. It is an act of faith. I am not religious, but I can find no other word for it than a sacred act. The writing, when it’s going well, flows from a deep spring that wells up in me, and the joy of that is indescribable. But that act, that faith, that power, that sacredness, is incomplete without the other half. Causing a reaction in the reader, making your story part of that reader’s internal landscape, creating a world that other people want to wander around in, that is the other half. The prayer is incomplete without someone to hear it. The song is incomplete without the voice to sing it.

That’s why I’m going to keep trying to get published.

I hope it’s always about the writing and the readers for me. I hope I never get so caught up in the career aspect of it that I forget that. And I hope it never ends.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. damyantig
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 10:00:45

    All excellent reasons. I hope you see your writing dreams come true.

  2. asherose
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 10:23:06

    Thanks very much!

  3. K. Jayne Cockrill
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 10:37:54

    I so agree about the success being scary. If we’re all honest with ourselves, sometimes the fear of success is greater than our fear of failure. I hope your dreams — and mine — all come true. As writers, I know we’ll work to the death to make it happen.


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