When I hear about people who write but have no desire for publication I always imagine closet diarists who hide their notebooks in drawers under their thermals if they live near the equator or their sarongs if they live in the Arctic.
If we write for ourselves we only have a reader of one to satisfy. This reader will always perceive the world with our eyes. She will understand the in-jokes, know exactly what we mean, get upset by or enjoy the same things.
Or we might write for ourselves in order to make sense of what we’re feeling, thinking, or experiencing. By “talking” to ourselves on the page we might come closer to understanding the world we live in. I fill journals with things I don’t want anyone to read, and have no desire to publish.
According to The Shorter Oxford the definition of ‘publish’ is to make publicly or generally known. So it surprises me when writers who say they don’t want to be published share their work with others.
I wonder if what they really mean is something else entirely. Perhaps they say they don’t want to publish because they fear rejection, or exposing themselves, or think their writing is not good enough. Or they get embarrassed when people ask if they’ve published anything. These fears, and others like them, can be crippling. They may be hidden not only from others, but from themselves.
Writing is “speaking” on a page. We write because we have something to say. As soon as we want someone else to “listen” we’re moving out of the private domain and into the public. In other words, publishing.
I see getting published as a crucial part of creative writing, rather than as separate from it.
In the interval between finishing a work and sending it out we are forced to face a frightening reality: our writing will be read through someone else’s eyes. We scurry back to read it before we expose ourselves to a discerning stranger. Our critical eye becomes sharper and we read with a heightened intensity. Does that word exactly describe what I’m trying to say? Can this sentence be phrased more effectively? So when we finally send it off our work is as complete as we can possibly make it at this stage of our writing development.
If the manuscript returns, be disappointed but not discouraged. The distance of time gives us fresher eyes and improved writing skills to see areas for improvement more clearly. Tweak that beginning, deepen that metaphor. Polish, and send it off again. If we weren’t sending it out again, would we spend the time creating a better manuscript?
Some writers I tutor are preparing their stories for an ebook publication. Most have had work published on-line or in anthologies. Several have won awards. All of them are now in that intense period where they are obliged to see their stories through a reader’s eyes.
Without the impetus of publication we’re less likely to complete our story or novel to its full potential. That’s why seeking published is a fundamental part of creative writing.