My writing has never been published because…I have never asked anyone to publish any of my writing.
These past few days, I have had to come to grips with just how hypocritical I have been about the art of writing. I have spent the last two years imagining myself sitting atop a high and holy pedestal. I have routinely patted myself on the back and narcissistically admired my own words as if they were the most brilliant thing ever written. I criticized writer wannabes who claimed that they “didn’t have time” to write. I silently snickered at people who struggled with a blank page, thinking to myself, “I don’t have that problem!”
I sometimes forget just what an arrogant spoiled brat I can be.
In the literary world, I am no less of a hack or a wannabe than the writer who’s never written anything. I say this because I have made every conceivable excuse to avoid the inconvenient but necessary work of getting published. I have preferred to lazily muse at my own keyboard, putting my own thoughts on loudspeaker, not bothering with the rigor of conducting research. I have chosen, for the most part, to post on my blog and other outlets where I don’t need anyone’s permission, and where no one can tell me how to write. In doing so, I have seriously hindered my own growth and development as a writer. I have also cheated my audience out of the quality writing that they could have enjoyed had I been willing to do the work necessary to create it.
Well, it all stops today.
Today, I am making the decision to become a professional writer. Becoming a professional writer, as I see it, means doing what’s necessary to get my work published. Today, I will no longer treat my writing as a leisure activity. I will treat it as a profession. I will treat it as something that simply needs to get done.
Today, I will stop acting as if I have the right to think myself better than others because of my gift with words, and instead, I will allow my gift with words to humble me. I will remind myself of what Julia Cameron said in The Artist’s Way: “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”
The Bible also affirms the same thing, and reading this particular passage makes me uncomfortable about my writing. In Luke 12:48, Jesus says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” In this particular passage, Jesus was making an analogy between life and a house full of servants. The master will return unannounced at any hour, he says. Some servants will have been making preparations. Other servants will have been lazy and drunk. Up until now, I have been one of the lazy and drunken servants when it comes to my writing.
By the way, please don’t take the Biblical reference to mean that I’m about to go all fire and brimstone on you. I’m not. Actually, this is the part where it gets fun.
Thanks to my good friend Cristin Whiting, who has inspired me to play a game centered around publication. The idea is to submit something for publication every three days. Today is day one of the game for me, so that means that I must submit something for publication by Monday night. I will be keeping a log of my submissions. I decided to throw in another fun little bit. I am making it my goal to get rejected by 50 publications. This should take me approximately five months to complete.
I am planning to continue to evolve this writing game in the months to come. I originally thought that all I would have to do was write one million words to achieve literary rock-stardom. But I was wrong. Thinking back to what Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers, the Beatles didn’t become great by playing alone in an empty room. They played on stage for unforgiving audiences, night after night, for years. When they returned to Liverpool, they had taken on a different sound. It is this process of enduring criticism and rejection, over and over again, that makes an artist great. I am looking forward to finally taking my first steps on this path myself, and I will be creating opportunities for others to play the game with me.
I have to admit that I still keep waiting for writing to get easier. I’m afraid that it might just not happen.