I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

The Unpublished Blues

I really hate the thought that some writers are judging their entire lives on whether or not they get their work published, as if that prospect were the only thing stopping them from wilting away into nothingness.

Much has been said about the depression that writers can fall into; the pressure that "the unpublished" place on themselves is terrible, a wretched thing that can destroy many wonderful people. I have seen this. I have met the woman who walked into the ocean because her writing was "going nowhere", because she thought she would never be good enough. Hell, she had so much else to celebrate in so many other areas of her life that she always seemed to underestimate. Her writing was also terrific. She just gave herself too much of a hard time. The beautiful children she produced are far more of an achievement than any book on any shelf. It's a shame she wouldn't believe that.

Ambition is a very dangerous thing, and when that's mixed in with the spice of a fickle industry the mixture can be explosive. I know this feeling. Journalism is just as dizzying. I learnt to contain things. The spotlight needs to shine on ALL parts of one's life.

It's easier said than done, but unpublished writers, I believe, mustn't treat their manuscripts as the "be all and end all". There is so much else going on. Perspective. Perspective. Perspective. Write, write and write some more but don't think it's the only golden key to satisfaction. Ask any published author. Is there a sudden dose of something that sorts out their lives? I know plenty of miserable published writers. It wasn't the medicine. They often envy those on the "unpublished side" who have wonderful relationships, who have happy homes, who don't go to bed uptight, who don't worry so much and analyse everything that goes on around them, who don't cut themselves off from the world with their inner torment.

The writer Samuel Johnson once said: "To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition." How can that relate to your situation?

When you start slapping yourself around because it's been too long that your words have not been in front of the masses, be satisfied by sharing them with just a few, then take a look at the rest of your life where there have already been more solid successes: children, gardens, friends, relationships, money-earning jobs, learning, good health, etc. Always keep things local, close to home, close to the heart. If it goes bigger on its own, then it's even more important to keep things local. If you become famous and it's huge, then you will need to force yourself to keep everything absolutely 100 percent LOCAL.

Getting a book into print would be nice, yes, but let's not blow up a whole planet just because one part of it doesn't yet have a flag to fly. I know a man who is always introduced by his colleagues, family and friends as "someone who failed to get a publisher for a book he spent 20 years working on". Gosh, what an introduction! I made a real effort to find out all the other wonderful things he did. He was a gem. Who cares about the book? He learnt in the end how to laugh about it. I do not want his unfortunate tag to be the one that someone staples to my shirt!

I will of course update people in my own writing circles on how my projects are going - yes, people on this blog are included in that - but I don't plan on telling every Tom, Donald and Harriet about my writing ambition, as though that's all there is running through my veins and that's what they should judge my whole life on. That little question that keeps coming back at us is a killer: so how is your writing coming along (meaning why haven't you been published yet?) or what's happening with the book (they haven't seen it on the shelves)?

I just want to get on with this whole living thing - and part of that is the writing. Enough of the running commentaries and painful updates, which only add more pressure. I am writing. The writing is coming along well. Everything else is too. Life is a beach. Did you know I paint? Did you know I also play the piano? Did you know that I've learnt to speak and write French? My name has already been published and broadcast around the world. Big deal. That's not what this whole creative thing is about. There. Enough said. There's no time to get blue about writing. There's too much fun to be had!

11 comments:

pundy said...

That's a brilliant post. Puts things into perspective.

But. But sometimes when you want something badly enough - and not just in writing - you will make any sacrifice to attain your goal.

Whether that sacrifice - any sacrifice - is worth it is another matter entirely.

Matt Curran said...

Well said Shameless.

Perspective is so important in a writer’s life. Stephen King once wrote that he was a father first, a husband second, and being a writer was way down the list…

Writing may be an obsession for most of us, but is being published? When I hit that publishing brick-wall a few years ago, I resigned myself to never being discovered and decided to write purely for myself. It’s actually very liberating writing something that you don’t intend to have published – writing for the joy of it, and for yourself. Indeed, I finally broke through that “wall” with a whole lot of luck and when I least expected it.

At the end, true friends and family will never judge you on whether you are published or not (they will most likely want to read whatever you write anyway), and at the very end, aren’t they the ones who make you happy?

Debi said...

Nice one, Shameless.
If you depend on the approval of others (whoever they are, including those who work in the fickle publishing industry) for your self-worth, you're on a hiding to nothing.

Shameless said...

I think that's why blogging can be such a joy as well, because we're just getting on and writing - and getting published on the Net is a bonus. And someone, somewhere, is reading.

Minx said...

Great poat Shameless.
I spend a lot of my working life with young children, building their self-esteem and persuading them that they can 'do' anything they want. As adults we are very poor at saying "I'm good at" or "I do this" or even "I enjoy".
I am not published, I hope to be one day, but until then I will enjoy the ride and the company of bloggers, who are writers in their own right, no matter what they think.

skintwriter said...

If there's one thing I've learned since starting blogging it's that there are loads of excellent writers out there - getting published is a lottery and has little to do with quality.

Getting published is only a matter of perseverance and luck and blogging is a great place to persevere

Julia said...

So true. I couldn't agree more.

Maxine said...

I enjoyed reading your post, Shameless. I think that there are many ways in which one is disappointed in or at one's work, whether it is writing or not. All work is creative to one degree or another, eg as Minx's comment shows. One just has to put it in perspective as you say in your post.
You writers may say it is different, and you may be right. But speaking as someone whose work is not writing a novel, I feel manyh of the same emotions, and share the experiences, I read writers of fiction (poetry, etc) expressing on their blogs.
It is all human nature-- we all have a creative spirit in some of the things we do in life: we aim to achieve things, and we don't always achieve the goals we set for ourselves. So we need to keep a sense of perspective, while still keeping the fire and the dreams alive.

Bhaswati said...

What a beautiful post, Shameless. And one with which I am in complete agreement. You are right, it's tiring sometimes to repeatedly read writers' woes about rejections on their blogs. Life is such a brilliant rainbow and it would be sad if people became so myopic to see only blue in it.

I write for the joy of it, if publication happens that's a nice bonus, but for me, it's not an end to be fought for aggressively. And what do you know? Some of the best writing comes out when you don't feel any pressure of succeeding.

Life is beautiful. And writing is but one speck of that beauty.

MTV said...

Shameless - I'm showing up a little late to the blog party here, but as you might be able to garner from my summary I've spent some years saving peoples lives. In that process I dove deeply into something I call "spiritual path". There is a dynamic that controls the human journey on this planet that is distinct from our human mind with its opinions and judgements. Sure, this view is founded in Zen, but is the only explanation that seems adequate to describe what happens.

The most fundamental part of our journey is simply to appreciate our journey. Losing sight of that results in what you term the "Writers Blues" and a whole host of other human miseries.

There is a screenwriter I know pretty well who refused to move to the Hollywood area because he disliked the conversations he overheard out there so intensely about screenwriters hoping they would get an agent or sell their latest work etc. He would not let that obsession take him over.

So, to me, for a writer to be truly successful, he must be able to put it all in perspective.

Your reference to being an international reporter and relating to it the way you do triggered my own personal reference in regard to money and success. As a an automotive crash specialist I would take brand new high profile cars with less than 100 miles on them and totally destroy them in tens of milliseconds. Some of these cars were selling for over 60 or 70,000 dollars. Hey, I needed the data to protect the life of those buyers. In fact some of these cars in the prototype stages cost well over 300,000 dollars. My point being that there were some high profile lawyers, doctors and Indian Chiefs that were driving these vehicles and feeling pretty successful. My view was they were just pieces of metal and my job was to do the best I knew how to make them safe. I could care less if they were 1000 dollars or million dollars. My focus was safety period.

So, perspective is everything and once you've been a world class jounalist or safety consultant or highly successful at anything, you begin to realize that there are things that are a lot more important. For some reason, at that point you start to examine the quality of the journey rather than the quantity of fulfillment.

Chris said...

So long has there are desperate un-published writers out there, then there will be shyster vanity presses who'll rip you off.

If a bona-fide publisher (i.e. one that doesn't ask you for money) won't accept your magnum opus, then publish it yourself - don't ever approach a third-party, go direct to a printer: it's much cheaper.

Unfortunately, many would-be authors though are deluded enough to think it's the road to riches.