Today I came across yet another not-yet-published writer who stated her personal manifesto that publishing is tough, but the people who succeed at it are the ones who stick to it. She ended by stating that not everyone has the will to make it in the publishing business. She is right. People who work persistently and consistently in pursuit of publication are likely to achieve their goals. I’ve seen many similar manifestos. I’ve even said the same thing myself a time or two. What has begun to bother me about these statements is the unintentional implication that a writer who stops pursuing publication is weak, a quitter.
There is a huge difference between the person who makes a reasoned decision to stop pursuit of a difficult goal and someone who gives up because they don’t want to work. Everything has an opportunity cost. Pursuing publication costs the writer in time and energy. Sometimes it impacts relationships or financial stability. Those costs need to be weighed. Also, life circumstances change. Altering dreams in response to a change in circumstance is a success, not a failure. In my life I’ve had times of poor health. I’ve had times when I had to put writing down in order to do other things. I wrote about that last April in an essay called Letting Go.
All the determination and sacrifice in the world can be completely undermined by things outside our control. Loss of employment, loss of health, needs of friends and family, these things happen to all of us at one time or another. They are all good reasons for giving up on writing either temporarily or permanently. Finding something else to do is also a valid reason for ending publication attempts. There is nothing wrong with choosing contentment over endless frustration and rejection. There is nothing wrong with deciding to chase a different dream.
At the moment I am pursuing publication. I am writing and compiling essays so that I can embark on the terrifying adventure of querying agents and editors. At this point in my life this is something I feel I must do. But my goal is not “getting published.” My goal is to get my stuff out there; to work as hard as I can; to learn as much as I can; to try. Whether or not publication is the reward of my effort, the effort itself is worthwhile. That said, I really want to hold my book in my hands. I want to be published.
But being published is not the only thing I want, and I am aware that somewhere down the road I may have to put the publication dream down for something else. I don’t want to, but I may have to. The ability to deliberately set aside a dream for something else is a measure of strength, not weakness.
Many thanks to my friend Janci. My thoughts on this subject were, and continue to be, refined by the fascinating conversations we have.