Jeanne: On (Not) Getting Published

On (Not) Getting PublishedThis post is for everyone out there who’s been writing for a while, but hasn’t gotten published.

It’s about dealing with the gnawing feeling that you’re this sad, pathetic person who has no talent, but can’t let go of the dream. It’s about feeling like one day people will be hanging around your coffin (a velvet-lined box containing a sleeping version of yourself that looks like one of those old black and white photographs someone has brightened up with colored pencils), talking about how you never gave up on writing even though it never got you anywhere. And because people don’t like to speak ill of the dead, at least not directly in front of your open coffin, they’ll say that in pseudo-admiring tones, but inside they’ll be thinking, a la Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon.”

I’ve been writing seriously–writing every day, taking classes, reading books and blogs, going to conferences–for twelve years now. On the inside, I can tell that I’m a much better writer. I have a lot better control of my sentences, I’m less likely to fall back on clichés to describe things, my plotting skills (especially since studying with the inimitable Jenny Crusie at McDaniel) have improved dramatically. What I’m writing today is far more readable than the crap my writing group suffered through twelve years ago.

And I’m still not published.

Moreover, with the current state of traditional publishing, there’s a very good chance I’ll never be published. I can self-publish but, given the lottery-like environment of that world and the very small amount of effort I’m willing to commit to marketing, that’s unlikely to yield any more readers than I currently have–a dozen or so generous souls who serve as beta readers in exchange for my doing the same for them.

One way to deal with this, of course, is to give up. There are plenty of other things I could use to fill my time. There are other hobbies, there are friends and family, we’re in a golden age of television. I could spend years of free time just making my way through the canon of Breaking Bad, The Big Bang Theory and Dr. Who.

But what if, because of the way you’re made, that’s not an option? What if you write, like I do, because you have no other choice? What if, against all common sense and sanity, you find your butt parked in a chair, your fingers pecking away at a keyboard, day after day, month after month, year after year? What if you are, in fact, the very definition of a maroon?

What I’ve done with this not-very-fun feeling is to decide to focus on the journey and not on the destination. I take pleasure in my ever-improving ability to craft a sentence, to construct a telling metaphor, to devise a riveting plot point. I may not ever get any more out of my efforts than just that, but that’s a lot really. It gives me little moments of pure pleasure.

And life, after all, is about the little moments.

12 thoughts on “Jeanne: On (Not) Getting Published

  1. I think we have to write for the immediate pleasure it gives us — otherwise it really is an insane enterprise.

    (-: But, I don’t think you’ll remain unpublished for too much longer. You are a great writer!

  2. I think you have to write for the fun, too, not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to make money at it. Probably everybody wants that. But the thing you can control is the writing. If you write crap, everybody will know it. If you write your heart out, people respond to that. The money may or may not follow. But that’s true for everything in life.

    I’m with you, Jeanne. But then, maroon’s my favorite color. 🙂

  3. I started writing because I had voices in my head that WOULD. NOT. SHUT. UP! I don’t always have voices in my head to get down on paper now, but I just really like writing. Even if it is all a bunch of schlock. I aspire to get published, but I’m okay with just writing for the pleasure of it, too.

  4. Hello Jeanne – I’m catching up late but I couldn’t pass by this lovely post unremarked. You might or might not get published (and I know which my guess would be) but you’ve hit the nail on the head – you write for those little moments of joy. And because you’ve got stories you need to tell, even if only a handful of people ever read them.

  5. I’m new to this writing game and I, too, want to be published, but I find I write to keep my sanity. When surrounded by a bunch of little kids with “little kid needs,” it’s easy to be scooped up into the insanity of parenthood, and while I love my children, I don’t want to be crazy for them. I love the challenge of writing, of finding that perfect word/sentence/simile, critiquing other aspiring writers, and “talking shop.” As I told my husband the other day, there isn’t anything else I want to do with my life right now, except write.

  6. Pingback: Michille: It’s Never Too Late | Eight Ladies Writing

  7. Thanks for the article. Seems like pursuing publishing steals my writing time and passion from me. I need to follow your example and just write. I like your format of several women supporting one another. It’s a great idea. I stopped blogging because even that was getting discouraging, with the hope of publishing hanging over my head. Thanks again for the inspiration. Think I’ll go work on my WIP.

    • That’s the best news I’ve heard all day, Lisa. Let us know how it’s going. We are firm believers in supporting each other. I’ll even promise that when you get published, I’ll buy your book–so there’s your first sale!

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