I recently took a walk with a friend who writes but hasn’t committed herself fully to being a writer. There is a difference! Someone who writes doesn’t necessarily need to take on all the responsibilities that being a writer requires. For a writer, these tasks include publishing and marketing her work. When I told my friend about all the things I’m doing [finding Advanced Review Copy (ARC) reviewers; seeking interviews; setting up readings—and so much more], as I prepare for the release of a new book (Dreaming Myself into Old Age: One Woman’s Search for Meaning), her response was, “I couldn’t do that!”
At first, I reacted defensively to her response. It made me feel as if all the work I’m doing doesn’t have merit and is beneath her. But as I thought more about her words, I realized that being unwilling to put in the time to not only write but also to promote one’s work—help it find its place in the world—is why she continues to be someone who writes but doesn’t try to publish. Being a writer requires much more of us than just creating our poems, fictions, essays, etc. We must be publicity savvy as well and find every possible opportunity to make sure our efforts aren’t stillborn.
Having watched my stepdaughter go through nine months of pregnancy, I can’t imagine her giving birth to a child that she wouldn’t care for in every possible way. Her approach holds true with writers, too. The image of a fully formed baby dying before she can enter the world is unimaginably painful. So, too, is the knowledge that some people’s work will not find its audience partly because publishing books is not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of time and determination from the writer to make it happen. Fortunately, writers have access to many more outlets these days. Not only is self-publishing acceptable but also online literary (and non-literary) magazines abound, making it so much easier to send out work and find acceptable venues.
I don’t want this post to end up sounding like a judgment on my writing friend (or on anyone else!) who chooses not to go all the way. My friend has made a decision that works for her. And I have made one that is right for me. I would feel terrible if, after spending years producing a novel, I didn’t give it the opportunity to find its readers. The dynamic that occurs between writers and readers seems a major part of the writing process itself. Just as children need parents to thrive fully, so do our narratives need readers. Consequently, I don’t feel my writing belongs entirely to myself. I must give it life in whatever ways I can.
Hence, I continually put in the necessary time and effort to send my writing into the world, preferring to not just labor but to be an active part of the birthing process.