To my way of thinking, there is only one reason to write, just as there is only one reason to breathe: because you have to. That’s why I write. Honestly, I can’t think of any other reason that anyone in the world would ever write.
In the first place, you sacrifice and work hard for years for no pay whatsoever. Then, finally, you finish something that you aren’t terribly ashamed to send out. So you send it out. Then you wait and wait and wait to hear. You hope. You worry. You doubt. You pray. And then you begin receiving rejection letters by the truckload. So, you sacrifice and work some more for no pay.
Maybe you finally sell your first book to a publishing house. Then, your editor quits—or dies—and you have to start all over, sending out. This sets you back by about a year, assuming that you can sell your previously “sold” novel to another publishing house, to another editor. And by the time your first published book hits the bookstore shelves, it’s old news, to you and to everyone who knows you. By then, you are worried about your second book.
By then, you’ve already finished your second book, sent it out, waited and waited and waited. You’ve passed through hopefulness, worry, self doubt, and self-loathing. You’ve prayed a lot. So far, God hasn’t answered—unless you consider the few rejection letters you’ve received an answer from God. By then, you are deeply afraid that you are a one-hit-hack.
And then, as if you weren’t tortured and pressured enough, over Christmas dinner, some aggressive, overachieving relative points the finger at you and says, “Shouldn’t you have had two or three books published by now?” And it’s the way he says it that lets you—and everyone else—know that he thinks you’re totally worthless. And you think he’s right. He’s absolutely right.
That’s what happened to me. This Christmas. Just a few days ago, in fact. It was very disappointing. Enormously disappointing. EEEEEE-normously.
Why? I think I thought that when I was FINALLY published, something magical would happen: Everyone would see that I was a worthy human-being, that I was worthy of the oxygen I used, the space I took up on the planet, that my very existence would be validated. And for that reason, I thought that people would like me a little better. But that just isn’t so. The people who always liked me still like me, and the people who always thought I was a worthless flake still think I am a worthless flake. Having my first book published didn’t really change things at all.
And I know that if having my first book published didn’t change things, then having my second or third or thirty-third book published won’t change things either. The people who always liked me still will, and the people who never liked me still won’t. (But even so, I’ve decided that I won’t show up for Christmas dinner next year unless I’ve sold at least one more book. I can’t. I just can’t—sorry, Meemaw.)
So, I say to all you unpublished authors out there, who are desperate to prove yourselves worthy of existence via publishing: Get used to the feeling; it never goes away. So, I hope you’re writing for the right reason: because you have to, because you simply have no other choice.
(You may wonder how I answered this overachieving relative who so viciously attacked me during Christmas dinner. Did I tell him that I was revising my second novel for a Big, Important Publishing House? Did I tell him that I was also currently writing my third novel? No, I did not. Instead, I blurted out, “I’m a one-hit-hack.” The dinner table fell horribly silent. I do not recommend this. People get uncomfortable when you unleash your deepest, darkest fears and let them run around naked during a fancy dinner—apparently.)