On Not Publishing a Book

On Not Publishing a Book

I’ve been telling myself for some time now that I should be satisfied with the act of writing and not be concerned about publication. I’ve absorbed all the advice, usually from writers who already have books out there, not to be concerned about selling. I’ve also convinced myself at times—and it’s true—that writing is a necessity for me, as important as food.  It’s how I nourish myself on all levels.

This approach can somewhat quiet any nagging feelings of anger and regret. It’s called sublimation or suppression, denying the real feelings that are churning underneath.  I’m not sure it’s healthy, but for many of us, it’s the only way to survive.

The truth is, not to publish after spending years working on novels is equivalent to carrying around a stillborn child.  It’s unhealthy, maybe deadly, for the mother, and the work never has an opportunity to reach its audience. I realize that some works might not be of publishable quality and may not have an audience.  But I’m speaking here of books that a few years ago would have been easily published but now aren’t.

Consequently, writers are forced to sublimate their hopes and dreams and find some other way to motivate themselves.  Hope has been the thin thread for many of us, hope that one day a publisher will recognize our talent and open the floodgates of publishing heaven.

Making Lemonade: How To Transform Rejection

A writing friend of mine has papered her bathroom with rejection slips.   Viewed in that context, they become less weighty, put into perspective.  As writers, we tend to think of rejections from publishers as negative.  But rejections can be gifts in disguise, offering us a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

There have been times when, once I let the initial sting of rejection subside and looked at the piece again, I could see why it wasn’t ready for publication or right for the place where I’d sent it.  Often the work still was in an early stage, but I hadn’t recognized that yet.  When we don’t have someone to edit our work, we can misjudge it, so it is important to view some rejections as professional feedback, not a rebuff.

In one rejection I received, the editor was kind enough to point out I hadn’t hit the emotional center of the piece.  I was remaining too general, skirting the heart of the story.  Once he pointed out my omission, I was able to literally turn honey into gold, the actual title of the article.

In another instance, I had written an article on cats.  The editor of a cat magazine returned it without any comment, a response that can hurt even more than the typical form letter.  That was a few months ago.  Today I picked up the essay and could see clearly what wasn’t working: it didn’t have a sharp focus. Again, I hadn’t hit the heart of the piece.

After making a European grand tour recently, I wrote my first travel article, wanting to make other travelers aware of some problems I’d run into.  I sent it off, expecting immediate acceptance:  after all, the article made so much sense.  Well, that was exactly the problem.  The piece was too factual and needed more personal flavor. In this case, one travel editor, while patronizing, at least made valuable recommendations. I just overlooked his manner.

We writers need to create something beautiful—or at least useful—out of what might seem a negative experience.  Make lemonade out of a lemon.  Turn honey into gold.