Thursday, March 1, 2012


‘Get Published’.  That is what we writers say when asked what is the single hope for our words our stories, our books.  Why else would you do it?  Why would you sit there day in, day out, coming back to something that taunts you as much as it uplifts?
But the chance of publication is remote.  Just attend any publishing workshop.  The speakers love to quote the figures of failed would-be writers.  We need to face the reality of the publishing industry they tell us.  After, we return to our blank pages, a little more hunched, and brushing off the echo of those figures like dust on a lapel.  We hope they don’t apply to us.

Stephen King wrote a few paragraphs in his 1981 book “Danse Macabre”—an examination of the horror genre in writing and film—and they stuck with me for thirty-one years.  They are my shield against the fear that I, too, will be one of those crumpled writers lying rejected at the feet of the publishing houses.  I paraphrase his words—because the book is in a box in the garage under a mountain of other boxes.
He said, ‘Writing is like going to the gym.  If you go to the gym every day and workout, you are going to build big muscles.  If you write every day, then eventually you are going to build big writing muscles.'  He went on to say, ‘Then there is that thing called luck that plays a role.  But there is nothing to say you can’t write yourself, with your big writing muscles, into a place and wait for that luck.’ 
That is a comment to frame.  We chase this dream daily of publishing but I think we must remind ourselves first why we write.  Publishing and being paid is a smart goal because there are not a lot of free things in life.  And, of course, we want to be read.  We want payment to entertain, educate, enlighten people whilst sharing our opinion and telling our stories.
King also famously said that he must write every day because he loves it and it avoids him getting a headache.  It was also his salvation after the accident that nearly killed him.
What if we write to not only build our muscles and hopefully to be published, but we turn to our craft, also, for our salvation?  If you think about it like that, then the writing landscape looks very different as you write your way to the Lucky Spot of Publishing.

Many big name writers suffered rejection by the big publishing houses.  We have heard the legends and it heartens us.  Best sellers like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, A Wrinkle in Time, and authors J.K. Rowlings, Colleen McCulloch, Beatrice Potter—all required perseverance to arrive at their Lucky Spot. 
Those authors and their stories arrived on some Editor’s desk at the right time—most likely not at the time the Author thought was right—at the Lucky Spot time that is a combination of talent, work, perseverance and luck.
Does it matter if your Lucky Spot isn’t after the first novel, or the second, or the fifty-first rejection of your third novel, and comes at the tenth submission of the fifth novel?  It does if you are writing for the income, the recognition and all the things we imagine we want from our writing.  
But what if the Lucky Spot is where you are now?  If just writing is the luckiest thing in the world you could do.  And all you need from your writing is to turn up to it, to make you as happy and rewarded as if you were a best-seller novelist.  Who said there is a time-line on publishing work and building a career?
Only you—maybe. 
And if nobody wants your first book or first story, well that is okay.  Write the second one and fill your trash, rubbish bags or in-boxes with the rejections.  Heck, stick them on the wall.  Success is the best revenge.  If the second book doesn’t do the trick, well eventually will come the book that makes a mockery of those rejection slips.  At some point, if you have a modicum of natural writing ability, you must find the Lucky Spot, where your writing matches your ambition.

Do not get me wrong.  When I started out two years ago, the publication of my work was the be all and end all.  I would go to sleep imagining the acceptance letter as, simultaneously, the spectre of being an unpublished writer loomed large.  But something happened along the road.  Call it, perhaps, the wisdom of the accumulated words I have banked. 
I wrote a bunch of short stories because the ideas alighted upon me and I needed to get them down.  Then several larger stories invaded my brain that I knew would become books.  And I was off and racing towards that publishing deal.  But as I wrote towards that Lucky Spot, head down and ambition weighing on my shoulders, I paused and looked around.  Suddenly, I realised I wasn’t writing to be published but writing because I loved it.  Writing and I were partners and we enjoyed each other’s company.
Now, I begrudge the paperwork and emails that have become part of my day, thanks to my small publishing commitments.  The closer you get to the Lucky Spot, the more paperwork you will find.  And it takes you from your love, from the magic words and the world of storytelling.  The business of writing is the least fun part.  And I fear that publishing deals will bestow even more paperwork and non-writing committments upon an author.
Writing is not work.  When I flex my muscles, I am grateful for the calling of my stories and characters.  They chose me and I am honoured by that.  Fellow writer, you and I will never know at what point in our writing career we will hit the Lucky Spot.  So whether a publisher thinks one of our books is good enough for publishing has become irrelevant.  The destination is not the goal. 
I believe publishing is ahead for anyone with the patience and the love of what they do.  It will wait for you.  You just need the patience and the courage to wait for it.  The Lucky Spot has a whispering magic that makes the world feel good.  I think you will know when you’re there.  Give me a blank page and a keyboard and I feel like the happiest, luckiest girl in the world—published or not.

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