We all start out wanting to get published, because that's what writers are for, right? That's what we do, how we validate ourselves. We twist ourselves in knots yearning for it. Like going to work, getting married, having kids – we do it because, well, that's what we're supposed to do. No thought. No question. No uncomfortable explanations or justifications needed. Follow the herd, lemming-like, over the cliff of despair.
But until we can say why it is we want to get published, rather than just, I want to get published, we will never be happy writing, even if we do get that 2 book mega-deal.
Understanding why we're doing it helps us discover what it is we need to get out of our work, or gives us the opportunity to change our focus if we find we're doing it for the wrong reasons.
So why do you write? Well, it's going to be one of three things, or somewhere in between.
Perhaps you write for therapy, to excise demons from your past, to examine yourself, to discover yourself. Maybe you write so you can say all those things you don't have the courage to say to all the people who annoy you in real life, to purge yourself of anger, annoyance and upset. Maybe it's the idea of writing that excites you, to be able to think of yourself as a writer. Maybe it's what you write about - illicit, private things that move you. Perhaps you only ever write for an audience of one. Or perhaps you write what you'd really love to read.
For the Reader
Maybe it's all about the reader. You seek only to entertain them, to transport them. Perhaps you devour all the bestsellers in the hope you'll see the ingredient you need for your own work to be successful. You learn that it's all about entertainment, accessibility and universality – that it's stories that readers want. And if it's for the reader, then it's for the money, as readers will pay for stories they want to read.
For the Writing
Or perhaps your dream is to learn and understand the craft until you are fluent in it, to strive for something unique, something more relevant, more challenging that what has gone before. Perhaps you want your work to transcend you, your reader and the tools you have available to you, for your creation to be greater than the sum of its parts – to be the greatest book you could ever write.
And if you wade through all that and still think, actually, all I want is to get published, then you can self-publish and be happy, right?
The Writer's Journey
"Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art." - Konstantin Stanislavsky
I started writing because I liked the idea of myself as a writer. Now I write because I want to become the best storyteller I can. And if publication comes along while I'm doing it, I'll look it squarely in the eye before biting its hand off to the elbow.
But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.