Monday, October 29, 2012

Would you still write if you knew you'd never get published?

A good friend of mine, also a writer, challenged me with that very question a while ago. She had had an agent for one of her novels, but the project dead-ended with him. She'd sent out many, many short stories to literary magazines, only to reap rejections. She'd been published as a poet, but decades ago. She was discouraged, and rightfully so. "What point is there," she asked, "in writing, if no one is going to read your work? Isn't the point of writing to be read?"

I tried to argue the art-for-art's sake point, that writing is a worthy pursuit in and of itself, even if your words never get published. And I certainly believe this; writing helps me sort my thoughts, helps me make sense of the world. It was, however, a lame argument for me to make because at that point I had already been published many times. Of course my friend's response was, "Easy for you to say."

But then it occurred to me that as a memoir writer, I have the additional benefit that my story will at least matter to my family. So I said to my friend, "I don't know if my book will ever get published, but you know what, writing it is worth it for my family. At least my children will have my version of my story."

My friend, who has now moved on to writing plays and has had two read for stage already, retorted, "You memoir writers are privileged that way."

Where are you at with this? Would you continue to write even if you had a crystal ball that told you you'd never get published?


  1. Of course I would write. Its much more entertaining than watching the tube. Besides, there is always self-publishing to consider.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. Yes I would. Writing is my lifeline to sanity. I ended up self-publishing because a well-known agent, who was interested in my book proposal, mapped out the expansive platform I would need to have to secure a contract. I'm not sorry one bit that I went through with the path I chose. The people that my book has touched have made the experience worthwhile. And like you said, my family now has an account of my creative journey. Thanks for presenting a post that challenges our motives as writers.

  3. I can't imagine not writing. It's part of who I am. So, yes, I would.

  4. I think the answer would be yes. I would, primarily, write under the assumption that one day I'll be read. But sometimes I also think of a distant time that my children or grandchildren will be the ones doing the reading as they sort through my towering stack of drafts and unorganized files. I'm writing to say what's on my mind. The thoughts are patient and can wait for a reader.

  5. Definitely! I started out not ever thinking about publishing, so I think it's been a part of who I am all along.

    When you have to write to stay sane, I think you have an obligation to continue, else you put undo burden on the rest of society. lol

  6. shelly, JoDee, Kelly, Julie, William, Diane - thanks for commenting and throwing in your two cents. I'm not surprised to hear you're dedicated to writing no matter what, which is what I expected becaues I know I operate the same way, but it was nevertheless not so easy to actually argue that vocational determination when directly challenged.

  7. Absolutely. Growing up in a family touched with mental illness, my version of reality has constantly been challenged. Writing helps me keep a record for myself, and shape the narrative so I have some feeling of control over my life. Over the past couple years this has become a higher priority than getting published, at least in the short term. In addition to writing, meeting with our group and reading others' pieces has kept me intellectually stimulated and challenged in a way I wouldn't otherwise be as a stay-at-home mom. As a matter of fact, getting published is my lowest priority right now.