April 14, 2011

A Hypothetical Question About Writing and Publishing

Let's say God floats down from heaven today and knocks on your front door. He proceeds to give you a big hug and then He looks at you and says, "Hey, you got a minute? I think we should talk."

So you invite God into your house and you take a seat in your living room. "Um, thanks for coming!" you say, unsure if this is really happening or if you've having a relapse from your PCP college days. "What did you want to talk about?"

The Almighty gives you a sad look. "You know," He says, "I wanted to talk to you about this writing thing that you're pursuing. I've seen how hard you've worked. I know how much you want this. But I've seen the future, kid, and I'm sorry to say that you'll never get published. At least, not in this lifetime."

You take a deep breath. Well, that totally sucks, you think to yourself while you try not to cry in front of a heavenly being.

God gives you a warm smile. "Hey, keep your chin up! You've got other talents. Anyway, I better get going. Lots to do today, after all--fighting Satan and ruling the universe and everything else. See you in a few decades!"

POOF. Then He disappears, leaving you all alone in your living room with a lot to think about.

Okay, that was kind of a weird hypothetical question...but it's something I've been thinking about lately. You see, I was hit with a major case of the Doubts last week, which stirred a serious conversation between me and my husband. Ultimately, the point of our discussion was this: do I write for the love of writing or do I write for the desire to get published?

And so, I've been thinking about this question quite a bit. Do I focus too much on that elusive book deal? Are my goals too singularly focused? Yet, it's really difficult for me to separate my passion for writing from my deep-rooted desire to get published. I mean, isn't that what we're all striving for? Yes, we love writing and we love improving our craft, but the reason why we put ourselves through countless revisions and rejections is to chase after that dream of seeing our books at a bookstore and sharing it with a wide audience.

Am I alone in this line of thinking? Maybe? Maybe not?

Anyway, that's why I set up this hypothetical question for myself. If I knew I would never get published, then would I keep on writing books? To be perfectly honest, I don't know. The dreamer side of me would say, "Why not? Writing is great!" But the practical side of me would wonder, "Well, what's the point? If this publishing thing is a bust, then I'd rather spend my time on something else. Like sloth breeding."

But at the end of the day, this hypothetical situation is just that: it's hypothetical. I have no idea whether or not I will get published. I don't have a crystal ball. I don't have God knocking on my door. But I do have hope. And that, I think, is why I keep on trying. Why I keep on drafting. Why I keep on revising. Why I keep on putting my heart out there.

Ah, hope. If none of us had it, then there wouldn't be too many writers out there. But we do have hope--it's the engine that fuels us to immerse ourselves in this crazy publishing world, even though it can break our hearts and hang us out to dry.

So that's what I'll do: keep on writing until my tank of hope runs out...

Have I mentioned that I'm a really hopeful person? 


  1. God totally mentioned the other day that you are definitely going to be published. Sorry I forgot to mention that last night at dinner!

    But in all seriousness, there are a lot of talented writers out there who never do get published ... because they're the ones who give up. Don't give up!

  2. I'm with Lynn.

    Sara Zarr's SCBWI talk really resonated with me, and one of the reasons was because she spoke about separating your creative life from the career/business side of things. Easier when you KNOW you're being published, I'm sure, but there is still so much out of our control re: sales, marketing, reviews, etc.

  3. Okay - raise sloths? It's a good thing I wasn't taking a sip of my coffee when I read that! LOL. I think that having hope is enough if you truly do love it because let's face it, God has better things to do than ring our doorbells. :D

  4. Agreed!! Don't give up, dedicate yourself to improving your craft, and when in doubt, ask for help (or cookies).


  5. Just wanted to say hi and that I think you're awesome!

  6. Don't give up (offers you chocolate & cookies). I think it's hard when we love writing, but want to be published as well. I think working on your craft and keeping the hope alive are two ways to get through the doubts :)

  7. Lol Caroline, after reading this post I have no doubts about your publishing future -- I laughed out loud at least twice!

    There is simply no way you can continue writing and improving and not succeed one day. You might get published next month, or you might be an 80-year-old grandma when it happens. But wouldn't you rather be that person that never gave up? I know you would - I read your blog!

    Anyway, you inspire me. Anytime you need a fill-up for your tank of hope, lemme know :] I've got faith in you!

  8. What a thought-provoking question. I've actually never heard it put that way before ... and I can't say I know what my answer would be.

    That said, though, from everything I've read, I have a REALLY hard time believing that this will be the case for you! I guess only God knows (ha, I loved that hypothetical scenario), but I really feel like you're so close. An incredible agent has put his career on the line for you, after all! I feel that's a great indicator.

  9. I don't know anymore if I want to write for the love of it or to ultimately be published. The writing is an awesome security blanket for days that are just awful and I need to loose myself for a few hours. And unlike everything else the writing is not yelling at me for a 1-5 year plan of my future.

    Doubts are a good check in though to make sure you're happy. If its making you utterly miserable maybe its time for a vacation to do some downtime fun stuff the writing has kept you from.

  10. Wow, fascinating questions! You've given me a lot to think about...

  11. I think anyone who feels it in their blood and can't stop even is they wanted to is going to get there in the end.

    Glass always half full here ;-)

  12. I so love this post, Caroline.

    I think for many of us, separating writing and publishing, the love vs the business, is difficult. Yes, we write because we love it, but we also write because we want to share those stories with the world. And isn't that how the goal of publishing works its way into the mix?

    I think that if someone wants to write, loves to write, and dreams of sharing their stories with others, they should keep writing, no matter what. The only piece we are in control of is our own story. Once it goes off into the great unknown (to agents, editors, etc), it is out of our hands. The legalities of the business will decide if we earn the title "author," but so far as I'm concerned, anyone who wants to write and loves to write is writer. And I find that title far more endearing. Writers, published or not, are full of hope, passion and determination. They give their work their entire heart without any promise of return. And that is simply amazing.

    Keep writing, girl. If you love it, keep writing!

  13. I so agree that giving up reduces your chances of publication to zero. If you keep trying, there's always hope.

    I do think that being able to share our stories with people who aren't related to us is a huge motivator. Anyone who tries to get published has that desire...otherwise they'd get the ms bound at Kinkos. But if you love to write, keep doing it. And I do believe your time will come!

    Oh, and in that situation, where there's absolutely no chance I'll ever get published because God came to my house and told me so, I'd self-publish.