There was an interesting conversation on agent Betsy Lerner’s blog yesterday about the difference between publishing and writing. She said, "I often talk here about the agony of writing, of being a writer. […] I wonder if I’ve got it backwards. Isn’t writing the ecstasy? Publishing the agony?” I have to say I agree, and not just because I do love me some Betsy Lerner.
Now, I’m not gonna lie. From the very beginning I was looking for accolades and acceptance for my work. I have a seriously unhealthy obsession with celebrity and fame. For the record, I’m abundantly clear that I’ve chosen the wrong line of work for red carpets and private jets. But I lived for those red comments in the margins of the work I submitted in early workshops, and I’ve already written here—at length—about my desperate desire to please my first agent. But I’m talking about something a little different.
When I first started writing, I had no idea what the end result was going to be. I didn’t think I was writing a book-length work; I wasn’t worried about where my book would fit in in today’s shrinking publishing marketplace. I just wanted to write. The act of writing was joyful; I eagerly carved out the hours from my full-time job and my full-throttle life to sit down and do it. There was power in the sheer creation of something tangible, hopefully something beautiful, where there was once only a jumble of thought. Then, somewhere along the line, that shifted. As my first draft neared completion, I started dreading the blank page, worrying if what I was writing would appeal to a broad enough audience to find a legitimate home. A sure prescription for page death. I limped to the finish line, my last fifty pages anemic and pale under the weight of my fear.
A subsequent rewrite made it worse. Was it too glib? Not funny enough? Was it Augusten Burroughs-esque or Mary Karr lite? Jesus, I was asking all the wrong questions. I was asking publishing questions, questions I’d culled from reading too many Poets & Writers forums and the wrong aspiring writers' blogs. The end publishing result is none of my fucking business. (At least not until I *hypothetically* have a publishing contract. Whole different blog post.)
For me, it’s not publishing that’s the agony. It’s the agony of getting ahead of myself. There’s a lesson in there that I can apply to my whole life. Must. Not. Quote. Cliché. Here. You’re writers, you know what I mean, right?