Sam (Someone who Ain’t Me),
When playing board games with friends the other week, I struggled to stay in the game while my competitors grew in power and sought alliances with each other to work against me. But no matter how sorely I lost or struggled through the game, I realized something about myself. Losing is kind of better than winning.
You may be thinking I’ve gone crazy, and I’d have a hard argument against you. Winning means you’ve been rewarded for your hard work and proven your worth to your peers. Some people, however, are paralyzed by the insistence of winning. They’re afraid to lose. I’ve lost at a lot of things, and I’m thankful for those losses. When I lose, I don’t give up. I know I can do better the next time. I learn from my defeat.
I think writers win when we get published. And what writer doesn’t want to get published? It means you’ve made it. All that hard work spent years writing, editing, cutting, editing, writing, re-writing, and editing more has all been worth it. You won.
I read an article that a friend of mine shared with me regarding a woman who published a serious literary fiction novel. The book – Dear Thief, asserted the article, should have received more success than it had. It deserved better because it was a real literature. I sympathize with the author, Samantha Harvey. The below quote by Harvey inspired this post and me to rethink my confidence in my future as an author:
“Being published is a bit like being entered into a race you don’t even want to run . . .
but, once running, can’t help but not want to lose. There’s lots of anxiety about your
position in that race. Hence my decision to forget the race and simply write, regardless.
Even regardless of whether or not I’m published and have readers – that the desire to
write (not to out-write others) is all that matters, to keep integrity, to enjoy it.”
This last bit about enjoying the act of writing and not just to get published is what really struck me. Many artists in today’s world might have lost this enthusiasm to effort and craft. There seems to be this race, this paranoia of ‘I must get published or noticed if I’m going to justify my identity as an artist.’ The love of the process of creating is so precious to forging the vital intimate connection between creator and audience. It’s a shame modern times have transferred the pressure of competition from sports to between artists.
Encouraging each other to be our best is not a bad thing, but when we lose our true purpose for writing just to get recognized, we fail (and not in the way which you can learn from failure). Writing in the first place, generally, allows us to create for ourselves. It may be nice for you to say you write for a grandparent or a close friend, but when being honest with yourself, you will understand that despite what you tell others, you write for you. It’s an escape from this world that seems to be against us at nearly every turn.
With the knowledge of writing for ourselves and having this pressure of being published, what then happens when we actually get published, when we win?
Harvey tells that once published, she was confronted with more anxiety to promote and sell her book. Since I started writing seriously, I have been so concerned with getting published that I haven’t really stopped to consider the fact that after I won, I would have to do more work to get word out about my story, even when I go with traditional publishing.
At this revelation, I realized I have been virtually preventing myself from genuinely putting forth my best effort to get published. My subconscious already knew. It was just waiting for me to catch up. I secretly knew there would be so much more for me to worry about after publication, and I didn’t want to deal with it.
I fear publication; I don’t want it to disrupt the life I’m accustomed to, one that promotes creativity and preserves privacy. I’m scared that once I get out there, once I win, I will lose the sense that these are only my stories, places I can go to vent or relax and get lost in the heads of others. It’s actually quite like being a parent, and it’s selfish. We don’t want our babies exposed or to get away from us. We want them all to ourselves. I need to do better to work harder at making my novel the best it can be without concerning myself with what comes after. It may be scary, but when it does come time to release it, we must do so with relief and watch it prosper.
It’s hard to not keep good things all for ourselves, but if we want to benefit our world and make it a better place, we have to let go. There are things about our stories readers will never know. We must hold on to that. In the end, our tales are still our own. We just have more people to talk to is all.