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.
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Jamie, this hit me about the time I finished my first novel. I started, just wanting to get the story out of my head. I ended by wanting New York. I did get it...but MUCH later than I thought!
Oh, the ignorance.... Although, come to think on it, it WAS bliss.
Oh yes, the ignorance! Sometimes I think I would trade it all to be ignorant again. Lol! Congrats on getting New York, though. You earned it!
Or, you write because otherwise your husband would expect you to do the housework. I wrote because it was fun. 21 books later, it's still fun. However, I do take exception to your blanket use of "Colorado" when you speak of April conditions. I live in Colorado and we had over 2 feet of snow this past weekend!
I forgot about the housework, haha! I'm the same Terry, I can either write or clean, not both 😉
"I can choose to write or I can choose to clean, and I have always chosen to write" -- Jane Smiley
I love that Jane Smiley...
Hahaha! Mine still expects me to do the housework, dammit! Yes, I think if we can hold onto writing for the fun of it, even once we do get published, that is the best of all worlds.
Holy cow, two feet! We got a few inches this weekend but nothing like that! Sending some warmer weather in your direction! (Although, it's more rainy today. :P)
Confession time from an unapologetic writer: I'm here for the money, for the publication, for the career. Only this pushes me through everything I'm doing 😉 Who am I kidding, we all know you don't do this job without needing to, without wanting to, without loving to. Support is key, and I see it in spades in the writers I surround myself with. Love paying it forward too.
Nikki, I ALWAYS say there is no shame in doing it for the fame or money too. I think it's important to be honest about what we hope to get out of being published otherwise, how will we know (and appreciate) if we've reached our definition of success? So thank you for your honesty! I think all of those external rewards are rooted in internal desires so it just loops back around. And yes, the compulsion--that too. Lol!
Hi Jamie, great post. Sorry for my long comment but this really is an important question...
"What are your reasons for wanting to be published?"
It has so many answers, different for each writer, I think. If I'm being totally honest here, I will admit, for everything I've ever taken on, I've been hell bent on proving to myself, to family, friends, anyone who knows me, I can do this. (I had that attitude about running a marathon. I trained and trained because those with that doubtful look in their eyes, didn't think I could do it. I think that's why I ended up running two. Sort of a see? I did it, not once, but twice)
When I was working in Corporate America, I wanted recognition for a job well done, and every single day, I set out to do the best I could. I could have cared less about the $$$, I just wanted to hear, "great job, Everhart!" I think, at least for me, it's likewise with writing. Eventually, just writing for me became a need to see what others thought. To hear a "this is great" by the people who are the industry experts. When you're working for a company, your co-workers can tell you all day long you're doing great, your work is perfection, but when The Boss tells you? It's different, right? I wanted to know, I could do this well enough those in the business recognized it. Yeah. What can I say? Validation.
Oh, yes. So well said. I'm definitely driven by this desire too. I think it's ingrained in us as human beings--we are designed to be accepted by the group. It used to be more about physical survival, while these days it's more about emotional survival. (Though emotional and physical health go hand in hand!) I agree that there's something to be said about getting that stamp of approval from the big wigs, as long as we continue to validate ourselves along the way. Because as I said, the journey is too long to hold out on feeling good about yourself and your work until New York says so.
Hi, fellow Coloradan! In Highlands Ranch, we received sixteen inches of snow, of which six are still on the ground. But, as you and I know, spring will return.
My reason for wanting to be published is simple: I want to be read. I long to share my stories--moreover, my characters--with other people. I never thought about making it big or getting rich. If a single reader enjoys one of my books, I'm happy. If someone hates what I write, it bothers me, but not enough to keep me for telling my characters' stories my way. Or is it "their way"?
Thanks for the inspirational post, Jamie. Pinned & shared.
I love that, Linda. I wish my intentions were always so pure! But I have had the great pleasure of having someone tell me my story "stuck with them in their bones" and it really is a beautiful thing to hear--something I should probably tack up in my office for the hard days!
I'm so glad you enjoyed the post (it did it's job, no?) and thank you for sharing!!
Great post Jamie! I write for the love of it, to explore ideas that bounce around in my head in a richer fashion. I wanted to be published for validation, like Donna. But as I wait for pub date, I'm worried. I have the validation I originally longed for - an agent, a publisher. But we writers are greedy. Now I want my readers to love me and give me lots of PDA. Will they? Greedy, greedy. Needy, needy. I want to get back to writing only for the LOVE of it!
Lol! I have not gotten to that point yet, Ella, but I can only how imagine how right you are! That's when you bury your head in your next project and just keep plugging away for the love of it. 🙂
Ha, yes, Ella! You're right, I'm in the same boat, in that NOW I want readers to love me, pleeeeeaaaaase LOVE ME. 🙂 Book won't be shipped until Oct 25/official rel Nov 1, but I have given out a few ARCs and the silence from the ones reading? Killing me. Yeah, we never get over that addictive validation/needy thing. I think I'll go have some wine with my whine.
Thanks, Jamie. Your essay and its conclusions reminded me of a post I published on my blog. I couldn't even recall how long ago. I dug back and looked, and I'm only a little chagrined to see it was my first post of 2013. But three years on and I still feel the same. I keep striving not for fame or fortune, and as I said then regarding validation: "I know that public validation, however sweet, would be fleeting. I know I have to find deeper meaning or I will end up perpetually, if cyclically, disappointed." And so I have looked deeper, and today I'm happy to find my deeper motivations are still intact. Onward!
So glad to hear you've found your peace, Vaughn! I couldn't agree more. I think it's an important balance to strike--inner validation vs outer validation--and I think it's really hard to be happy or successful without a strong sense of both.
I would love to read your post! Will you share the link?
Sure! I reread it myself. Nothing like relearning a lesson from your prior self, right? Thanks again for the reminder, and for asking about my post, Jamie. Great job today!
Such a great post, Vaughn! Your last lines gave me goosebumps. I have to admit, I'm still young enough to crave a little fame. Just a little. 😉 Money has never been a big motivating factor for me, but like you say, it sure does help to be able to support your own artistic endeavors. Thanks so much for sharing your post with me! I just love everything you write.
Aw shucks, thanks! 🙂 Back at ya! <3
Great post, Jamie. I write to release my thoughts and feelings. I write because I "think" better through my fingers. 🙂
TRUTH. This is why my journal and I have a passionate love affair. 😉
And that's why I wish I could journal. But I can't. So I write fiction. 🙂
The two creative pieces I've had published so far -- short stories -- were written because something from the "real world" made a tangible connection with something in my imagination -- a house, a person, a situation. This is what is driving my other fiction WIPs. Publishing is like that moment in the Velveteen Rabbit when the stuffed toy becomes real. For someone besides myself, my story meant something.
Yes! I love that. I have had the same experience with my novels and I hope I never get to the point where I have to pull something completely out of thin air. Thankfully (I think) life continues to supply. 😉
I started writing because an English teacher friend suggested I put the movie that played in my head every night on paper. When I finished that book I started another--because there was another movie. My husband talked to a friend of his, a mystery writer, who encouraged him to encourage me to publish. (As least the writer friend had read my book!) I wasn't interested, but when my husband heard his friend's royalty numbers, my husband complained no more about the hours I spent at the computer! And he pushed me to pitch my book.
Lol! Oh, husbands. They are definitely (usually) so number oriented. Do you feel like you've gotten to the point that you want to be published because of your own desires? If nothing else, at least he is supportive of your writing now. We won't tell him how long it takes to start seeing the money... 😉
Thank you for your essay which resonated with me on many levels. i started writing when I was eight. I am many times that age now and I have written countless stories, poems and essays. For the longest time, I , too was content to simply write. Now I want to hold my published work in my hands and have other people read it. So far I have had one personal essay published. Who knows if I will get my novel in print? Still, I keep on writing, because it is who I am. I love stringing words together and seeing what happens. I love the surprises I encounter and the magic I create.
Let's cut to the chase. The only incontestable reason for wanting to be commercially published is to prove to yourself and other interested parties that you are not delusional.
Bahahhaa, Barry! Way to cut to the chase! True dat. Except, when I think about it, the two are not mutually exclusive, are they?
No, Laura, they are not! Except I believe most writers, in the end, seek publication for their own validation, so their very reason for existing has a niche in the grand scheme of humanity itself, no?
Dang. It is so existential down here in the Barry Section. These are the cool seats. I hope this discussion keeps going. 🙂