What keeps a writer going? What should keep a writer going? Is it publication? I’m not so sure. We all dream of publication. We want our work out there. And yes, it’s a very very cool thing when a reader (a stranger!) comes to you, or writes to you, and tells you that your book really moved them, or really made an impact. Then, it all feels worth it. WE want to matter. We want to connect. We want our work to move people.
Publication comes with a lot of stuff. It is a hell of a lot of work. Unless you’re super well known, and/or have the means to hire help, promotion is GRUELING. It takes time. You run into roadblocks. You get doors slammed in your face. Hey – just like pre-publication! Life isn’t so different. The rejections just take on a new form. And, you become more public. Now, you have a persona. Me, I just like to be myself. But maybe I am sometimes too much myself. I run the danger of creating all kinds of mental angst around this that may or may not be valuable.
I’m not dissing publication. I love that my books are out there. But I’m realistic. I see lots in the world about helping writers get published (self or traditional). I see very little about how we get to mentally deal with all the stuff that comes with publication. Are you prepared to be more public? Are you prepared for the work? How will you still find time to write? The latter, I believe, is a real concern. Promotion and all the busyness we create around it can totally suck away the time needed for new writing. Not to mention that it can simply tire you out, and dampen the creative flame.
The flame must be nurtured.
In the end, I think we must always come back to the creation (and revision) of the work. That’s where the true joy, and the true self, is for me. Alexs Pate said this to us once, at a workshop I took years ago at the Loft. Naïve writer that I was, I didn’t believe him yet. Because what could be better than being published!? He was; I wasn’t, yet. Alexs said that in the end, you must write for the love of writing, and revising, and creating, and working with language. Even if the whole world stops reading books, even if our communication becomes reduced to facebook and twitter snippets or reality shows or the latest social media platform–if you’re wired, to write, you must write. And that grounds me, today. I can, and will, always return to my writing – regardless of whether or not the book sells well, whether it ever sells, whether or not it gets reviewed, whether my friends like it, or whatever. It does take courage.
Write on. In the face of all the busyness, this might be one of most true things we ever do.