Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Importance of Being Published

Last night I lay awake for a long time, thinking about a blog post I came across on twitter yesterday.
A friend had posted it, but it had been written by someone else, someone I don't know.
It was a rant.
It was a longish and bitter rant against writers who strive to be published, who talk about being published, and how to get there. This blogger was disgusted by that attitude and postulated that writing was a thing onto itself, something that should be done without having publishing in mind, and writers shouldn't even think about it. She wanted an "artistic exchange" between writers, and not endless shop talk, and she wanted the need for validation gone.
Here's the thing.
Writing is work. It's a lot of work. It's time consuming, and it leaves you with not doing other things that should be done. It also doesn't exist for itself. Just like a cake that wants to be eaten by many, the writing should go out and be read.

Why is it that artists – including writers – are expected to work for free, and why do they think they should? Why is creativity seen as a by-product of normal life?
What a strange thing this is, creativity. It's all around us, in every design, every piece of clothing, even the cute or funny image on our coffee mug. It's taken for granted, it's a part of human life.
Why write, if there's no one to read it? Why sing, if no one will listen?

I'm not going to give you the bull about "needing" to write, or else. It's just not true. You can decide to be a writer, or you can leave it. There's no such thing as a writing gene that forces you to put pen to paper, it's a decision, because there's a story bubbling away in you. But it can be told just as well to yourself, late at night and in bed, to lull you into dreams. No need to spend weeks or months writing it down.
But please don't tell the world that you don't care if someone reads your writing. It's a big, fat lie.
Every baker wants their cake to be eaten, and praised, every singer wants their song to be heard, and every writers wants their stories to be read.

Let's get back to the validation thing for a moment.
What exactly does that mean, "validation"?
It means you get paid. In this particular instance, it means someone bought your novel, and you're getting paid for all those hours you spent writing it. Someone who lives to make money - a publisher, an agent - decided that your work is good enough to make them some coins.
YOU may call it validation. Others call that business. You worked for it – so why not get paid?
The only difference is that no one asked you to do the work. You weren't hired to do it. But that's about the only difference. It was still work. It was fun, you enjoyed doing it, but in the end you have a product that can be sold. So sell it, and don't sit on it because you fear rejection. You wouldn't sit on your cake, either.

This was my kind of rant about writing.
My publisher keeps saying this: "Butt in chair, write, and then submit!"
I like how they can sum up things this neatly. Too many writers talk about writing instead of writing. They talk about it on twitter, a lot. They attend conferences and workshops, they blog and cry about it, when they should be writing.
So this is where I'm going now: back to my work day. I have a novel to finish.