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Publish -- or Perish?

Posted by Priscilla on February 25, 2013

“Do you write just for yourself or are you hoping to get published?”

I suppose there are those who write for themselves, but I don’t know why. It seems a little like someone finding a rough diamond, cutting it, polishing it, and then spending the rest of his life fingering it. Smeagol-like, he hoards its pleasure for himself.

Of course I hope to publish in fiction, just as I have in non-fiction.

What is so important about publishing? Let me count the ways.

  1. The creative impulse grows through being shared.

Creativity is not a spring-fed well, that we can dip into whenever we want.  High school teachers recognize that years of rote learning leave untold numbers of students convinced that creating is impossible for them.  By the time we become adults, our well has, if we are lucky, about an inch of water left. 

 How do we restore our creative impulse? Not by hoarding, but by scattering it abroad.  I take that inch of water and pour it out onto something I have written.  I put everything I know and understand about life, about people, about things, about death into that story or essay and then I send it out. When an editor puts her imprimatur on my writing, I am filled up. If I have been naked, my writing will touch others. When they respond, my well refills again. Now I have more creativity than when I started.

 Publishing on Twitter or Facebook or even on a blog is not the same thing (yes, I preach to myself).  If we focus our creative energies on social media, we deplete our well and never get refilled. Musician John Mayer found this out the hard way: 

            “The tweets are getting shorter, but the songs are still 4 minutes long. You’re coming up with 140-character zingers, and the song is still 4 minutes long…I realized about a year ago that I couldn’t have a complete thought anymore. And I was a tweetaholic. I had four million twitter followers, and I was always writing on it. And I stopped using twitter as an outlet and I started using twitter as the instrument to riff on, and it started to make my mind smaller and smaller and smaller. And I couldn’t write a song.” (from http://www.berklee-blogs.com/2011/07/john-mayer-2011-clinic-manage-the-temptation-to-publish-yourself/)

  2.   Creativity demands the emotional nakedness that comes by publishing.

Most of us like to hide. It’s a lot safer to write for myself because I can avoid your disapproval, your rejection, and my despair. But all artists need the rough edges of public opinion to grow. As iron sharpens iron, your critique strengthens my language, my story. Publishing is the ultimate critique session. Editors have voted with their investment dollars, and now the public votes with its buying power. Soon they will vote with their Amazon reviews. And here I stand:  naked.

If I hide, my well runs dry. If I reveal, I have more boldness to try new things.


  3.    Emotional nakedness is a great way to fulfill my two-fold vocation:  to love both God and my neighbor. 

I honor the gift I have been given by seeking to publish.  But there is more to publishing than that. I honor you, my friends, my readers, my fellow writers, by seeking to publish. Why? Because I have insights into life that you don’t have. I have truth that you haven’t yet found, just as you have insights and truth that I need. When I share my insights with you, I give you the opportunity to grow.  When you share with me, I am made better.


 What do you think?


Posted by Jerry on
I agree with you Priscilla.

I some ways it is Risk vs Reward. You risk vulnerability and accountability, and the potential reward/blessing is great. And your creative well is dug deeper.

If you hoard your writing, it may offer some therapeutic relief, but you will never feel the thrill of somebody saying "You touched my life."

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