Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wishing I Were on the Other Side

"Raise your hand if you already have something written you want to publish."

A few hands go up.

"Raise your hand if you have already published something."

A few other hands go up, noticably more easily.

"Raise your hand if you are thinking about writing something you would like to publish."

It looks like the rest of the attendees raise their hands.

"So raise your hand if you don't even know what program you are sitting in."

Gets a few chuckles.

But I neither laugh nor raise my hand. I know where I am (a workshop on epublishing) but I'm not sure I can answer why I carved out the time to drive here and listen to some movers and shakers on this topic.

I don't have a well-loved manuscript hidden away somewhere that just needs a platform to find an audience.  I didn't just finish the National Novel Writing Month with something blazing hot, begging to be published. And yet, publication beckons to me like an Everest.  Why?

I used to think that everyone wanted to be a writer.  Turns out, that's because I happened to know a lot of voracious readers, and most of them do.  If someone hands you a ticket for transport or transcendence, you often wonder if you could be a magic-maker and hand out such remarkable tickets, too.

For every encouraging person who has ever told me anything along the lines of, "You should write a book," are a hundred other voices (most of them in my head) pointing out the ridiculous improbability of it all.  After all, you have to be an author to write a book.  You have to be someone brilliant and remarkable and photogenic and disciplined.  You need hundreds of ideal, uninterrupted work hours where you are productive and focused and inspired.  You need a Mac computer, awesome penmannship, perfect grammar, and oh yeah, a never-ending spring of unique ideas that leaves you breathless with their originality and beauty.

None of those things are true of me.

What about you?  Doesn't the idea of publication beckon to many of you, too?  We read, we write, we stumble around in the dark with our words, looking to shine a little light. Find a path.  Embark on an epic journey....

only to still be wasting time fiddling around with the batteries of our flashlight.

All the while another author runs past us in the darkness, takes a flying leap off the cliff into the unknown, and all we hear is, "Wheee!"

Whee?! That's it?  Did they get published or not?

We don't get the answer to that.  Self-doubt settles back down around us in the darkness. It seems it would be much easier to stop trying to earn the "externally-validated-author" badge and get off this trail altogether. Other worthy pursuits await.

But then we catch a faint echo of that whee and can't walk away.

Because we definitely, absolutely want to believe that the journey would be worth it for its own sake, that the risk is worth taking. That whatever success or failure waits at the end of that flying leap of faith, the flight is the thing.

But wouldn't it be grand to know that we had wings that would carry us before we even leapt?

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