This post is an open letter to writers like myself who, at a young age, got roped into the publishing myth.
There’s this idea that once you get published, you evolve into a Writer, with secret Knowledge of what Success in Writing looks like. It’s New-York-Times-Selling magic that makes everything an author does brilliant and perfect.
The whole idea behind it is wrong. You can’t sit down, pop a novel out like a baby, get it published, and be done with writing forever. Creativity doesn’t work that way.
If you drew out a step by step of the creation of a book, it would end with publication (from the publishing house’s viewpoint). Your work bound and sent out across the world. But it’s not the end. There’s no such thing as a final draft. As a writer, you’ll always be able to find things you should have changed, words you couldn’t think of before. Writing doesn’t end once it’s printed on a page; it doesn’t end at all. Every single story I’ve published (and every novel I’ve revised, but not yet published and even in this post which I’ve revised at least ten times) I look back at and worry about commas, descriptions, language. They’re not perfect, because it’s literally impossible to perfect a story. Perfection doesn’t exist, so why do we believe it exists bound in a hardcover for $24.99 at Barnes and Noble?
Authors aren’t gods. They’re the opposite, too close to humanity for comfort. They aren’t factories. They’re artists that use words. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” talks in depth about the way we should openly embrace creativity and not treat it as something perfect that we must suffer for. Art isn’t perfect, and it isn’t meant to be perfect. Success shouldn’t be defined as being published or shown in a gallery (these are great things, don’t get me wrong), but should be defined by your satisfaction.
Does your art make you happy?
Does your art push you to make more art, and to seek out different ways of doing it?
Are you in love with your art?
These can sound like New-Agey questions, and I understand that’s not for everyone. But there’s real merit behind this question. So what if no one ever reads your story? Do you want it read? That’s what truly matters. What we currently define as success (published, best-selling, touring) is success, but it is not only success. It comes in many different forms that I wish I knew about when I was younger. Life is short, art is awesome, so go out and make it.