--Emerging from the Myth That Those Who Aren't PUBLISHED Can't Write--
Writers who write about writing: self-help books, essays, and so on, are writers who can't write. They go on seminar, conference, and lecture circuits, teaching their writing insights, but they wouldn't be writing books and lecturing about writing if they could actually write anything worth publishing on other subjects, right? They'd be writing, you know, BOOKS: Novels, short stories, essays, poetry, biographies, memoirs, and history books that would be displayed proudly in every bookstore window, their shiny covers full of light and color. These writers would be PUBLISHED by one of the big houses in New York City. They would be guests on Oprah or NPR's Fresh Air, and everyone you knew would be talking about their literary feat. Because they aren't PUBLISHED, they can't write, so why should I listen to what they have to say about writing? Don't you agree?
You shouldn't, because I no longer believe this myself. Yes. I'm guilty. It wasn't part of my conscious attitude toward other writers, but a little snippy voice inside me has chanted this false belief to me for over twenty-five years. I'm ashamed it took me so long to figure out the truth. Like a small dog yapping at my heels, this mantra of negativity urged me forward in desperation to become a writer worthy of being published. Blindly I wrote and wrote for years, rarely happy with the results. Now I am looking more at the writing process itself than at its results.
My mother, a teacher and writer and devoted reader, as well as my own classroom teachers, instilled in me the love of great writing. But somehow I also learned that only certain particular writers do great writing and that the only writing worth doing had to meet this same ill-defined level of greatness. What I missed was learning about the process of writing as an art in itself: how wonderful and unique it was for each person, and how important it was to the growth and development of the writer.
My understanding didn't change overnight. Not until I found myself mid-process on a novel with several other novels drafted (as well as essays, poems, and short stories – you know the drill), and an active member of a critique group, that I began to see the state I was in for what it was: mid-process on a journey, a wonderful learning experience, a wonderful writing life.
I know so much more now than when I started -- most of it acquired by doing it (“it” being WRITING not getting PUBLISHED) But if it weren't for the advice and feedback of so many other writers-- some in person, some through their books or essays on writing, some through heir blogs–I wouldn't have made it. These are amazing people and amazing writers. They are so smart about writing–who knows why they don't have a BOOK PUBLISHED, let alone a bestseller. Some are published with small presses or self-published (which is now no longer even a dirty word). Some have professional web sites and blogs which they update regularly with canny insights and news about the writing and publishing industry. These people are serious professionals. But most importantly, they are writing every day and sharing the wealth of their knowledge. These folks are working writers. And I'd like to count myself among their ranks as I share this blog with you.
I am aware that when we publish to social media, self publish, or find small writing organizations and associations to publish our books and essays on writing, we help keep our names out there amongst a reading public. I am also aware that this effort often means that when, with luck, our epic hits the shelves at the local bookstore (or the virtual amazon.com elist), we will probably have a ready-made audience to start with because of our e-verse efforts. This isn't cowardly or duplicitous, as I wanted to think to justify my not doing it myself for years. It is smart business. And it is work. Hard work. This practical nature of ours as writers does not negate our ability to hone our craft and create our art.
The way I see it, only I can say whether I'm doing what I want to be doing. Only I can say whether I am successful or not. I'm not talking about evaluating my writing based on whether it pays my bills. That's a harder job and I bow to those who have done it on a regular basis. Getting your writing to pay is often means working for the man and writing what he wants you to write. Sometimes it means finding a niche which turns out to be a money maker. Sometimes writers find two niches: a money-maker niche and a heart niche. What I'm talking about here is the heart niche, the one that is all you, all the time and that you feel good about. It's the one you can nestle right into and feel at home with. But it is also the one you must fiercely protect. Fight off any demons, monkeys, or ninjas that try to change or take away your heart niche. Keep that niche work safe in a lock box while you do whatever else you have to do to survive. Then open that lock box and take out your work when it is safe and quiet (or loud if that's how you work) and when you can feel free to work it the way you feel it. If you look around you, you'll see that you are not alone. There's a bunch of us other heart-niche writers writing and living all around you, keepin' the faith, any which way we can.
Of course, not every writer who generously shares themselves and their insights with other writers is UNPUBLISHED. Many famous writers and not so-famous, yet very PUBLISHED authors also share their thoughts about writing and writers in very helpful and heart-ful ways. Here is a short list of just some of the writers and writings that have touched me as a heart-niche writer, in no particular order. I am grateful to you all. There are many more, and I can't possibly list them all. My apologies to any I might have inadvertently left out:
Stephen King, On Writing (I love you, Steve!), http://www.stephenking.com/library/nonfiction/on_writing:_a_memoir_of_the_craft.html
Jodi Calkins, http://emeryroad.com/blog
Sue Campbell, http://www.suecampbellgraphicdesign.com/
E Charles aka Becky Black (junkfoodmonkey), http://www.junkfoodmonkey.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Fics/Articles/EditingRecipe.html
John Vorhaus, Creativity Rules, http://radarenterprizes.com/?p=379
Jennifer Cruisie, http://www.jennycrusie.com/for-writers/essays/taking-out-the-garbage-how-to-protect-your-work-and-get-your-life/
Holly Lisle, http://hollylisle.com/
Ever learning, Everlasting