This week in Colorado the temperature is getting into the 70s. We’re getting those afternoon thunderstorms that are quintessential of April through August here, and it’s the smell of damp grass and the feel of the cool moisture in the air that’s putting me in a summer frame of mind. It makes me want to curl up on a blanket under the sun with a Natalie Goldberg book and a notebook.
For me, summer is a time of escaping into the artistry of writing. With my kids home from school and much of our time spent outside, all of us lethargic with Vitamin D, I am in no rush. I live for the moment, for putting this word after that word after that one, listening to the scratch of my pen across the paper. I can’t bring myself to worry about what will happen with whichever piece I’m working on, simply reveling in the feeling of writing it. Whoever might read it one day is the the furthest thing from my mind. It’s for me. And in summer, I’m sure I could live in this world forever–just writing for the sake of writing. Just eating, sleeping, and breathing it.
But then there’s this other time.
THE NEW ITCH
September rolls around and the world gets back into a routine. The kids get back to school. We get back to work, and suddenly the writing takes on a different hue. Suddenly the writing needs to do something, it needs to mean something. As we get reeled back into the net of society, we wonder what our place is inside of it. How do we define ourselves, differentiate ourselves from the crowd? And since we are writers, for many of us, that means getting published.
I have to admit, for a long time I didn’t strive to be published. I lived in that eternal summer, thriving on writing scene after scene, book after book that only I would ever read. For a long time, it scratched the only itch I had–to create.
But then, inevitably, a new itch formed. It’s only natural after doing something I loved for so long, that I would ask myself what the purpose was. When not every day was a sun-drunk day of writing ease, I wondered why I put myself through it. When I couldn’t bring myself to fit seamlessly into the folds of typical society, people asked me why. I asked myself why.
The answer was, because I am writer.
A BUSINESS VENTURE OR A SOUL’S CALLING?
No, being a writer doesn’t mean you need to be published. You don’t need to be published to be a writer. For years, I was okay with that but eventually, I felt like something was missing. There was an essential step to the writing process that I was missing: being read.
These days, we are so in touch with the publishing industry. We do our due diligence–joining writing groups, learning about how the industry works, searching for agents, collecting marketing tips like seashells on the beach. And sure, making enough money from our art to quit or avoid a day job is a strong allure. We are so aware of the business of this business that getting published becomes more of a status symbol than the answer to the deep, yearning call of our creative process begging to be completed.
But why do we really want to be published? For the same reason we start writing in the first place–to give our lives purpose, to give this moment meaning. We ache for our names and our thoughts to be forever in print so we can say, “I was here. I mattered. My words mattered.” We want to feel valued and to know that we are here for a reason.
While the act of creating does that in itself, being published is a way to touch more lives through our work, and extend our reach.
It’s society’s validation of our hard work, in a culture where being productive and earning money seem to be the only valuable use of time.
It’s proof that while we are toiling away in creative silence, we are doing something important too.
WE SEE YOUR TOILING
It’s a long, hard haul, getting published. No matter which route you take, there will be more “no”s than “yes”s. There will be more days of slogging than sailing. There will never be enough money or enough time or enough tissues. There will be ample heartbreaks to fuel your creativity.
There will also be ample support. There are incredible communities of writers–like this one–to brush you off and pull you up. If you look, there are reminders every day that it can be done, and is being done. Those rare “yes”s will keep you moving forward. As it should. Because you are a writer.
You are here.
Your words matter.
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What are your reasons for wanting to be published?
Jamie Raintree is a writer, a writing business and productivity instructor, and the creator of the Writing & Revision Tracker. She is represented by Regal Literary and is currently working on her second novel. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website below.