Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Personally, I prefer Bobby Singer‘s, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.” Bobby is a fictional character who was quoting Animal House to a personification of the deadly sin of sloth, whereas Socrates, a real person, was making his final speech before death, but I think they both get the same point across.
It’s not much of a life if you are not aware of it, if you don’t take the time to stop and ask yourself why.
These words of wisdom occur to me as I take a long look at my goals for writing. Growing up, things were quite clear: I would publish my work through traditional means because that is simply how it’s done. I’ll go on book tours, have a nifty signature, and maybe one day, a movie will be made based on my books. I’ll settle in with an editor and an agent and spend the rest of my life turning out a book every year or two. I realize now that the adult life never looks more simpler than it does when a teenager is doing the looking.
As I approach thirty, I can’t help but to reevaluate and question. The publishing world is not as clear-cut as I once thought. Publishers want to publish what will sell, what people want at the moment. Therefore, agents want to represent what publishers want. This puts a lot of burden on the writer to be innovative, “fresh”, and able to cater to commercial demands. It leaves very little room for people who want to write what may not be in vogue at the moment.
I have sent queries to about twenty different agents, including two independent publishing houses, and have been rejected by all of them. If I had less confidence in what I have written, I would trash the entire idea and try again. However, a few people have read my novel and they all like it. I like it! I believe in it. I have rewritten my query almost a dozen times but I keep getting the, “I’m sorry but I’m just not excited about your project” rejection letter.
All of this brings up the very simple question, “Why do I want to be published?” Not, “Why do I want to write?” I write for the same reasons birds sing and rain is wet. It’s who I am. It’s what I’m meant to do. To stop writing would be a kind of death. I’d still walk, talk, and eat but I wouldn’t be alive. So, that second question is irrelevant.
The immediate answer to the first question is, “To be famous. To get my name out there.” But why would I want to be famous? What good does it do me? I’ll have certain expectations put onto my time and energy. I won’t have as much freedom as I once did. I’ll have the stress of needing to write really well all the time in order to keep up the fame. So what if everyone knows my name, anyway? My name is a collection of syllables. I don’t get added life points every time someone says, writes, or reads it. There’s no point beyond the human desire for esteem and respect.
The next answer is, “To have lots of money.” Yes, lets have lots of money in a world where people are starving beside people who are feasting, and where many die because they have no clean water. “Well, I can give some of the money away to charity.” That’s all well and good, and a lot of problems will get solved, both personally and otherwise, but do I really want to use this gift of mine just for making money? It’s like a robin wanting to charge so you can hear its song.
And then the final answer, the quiet little voice in the back of the mind, “I have something to say.”
That is that. That is the real answer. Once all the conceit and pride are brushed away, the gold comes to the surface. I have something to say. I have something to share. There are entire worlds in my mind, as well as voices clamoring to be heard. If I don’t share them, “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer. 20:9).
To put it more simply: I want people to read it. I don’t want to spend the next few years trying to go through traditional means, feeling as if I’m screaming in the middle of a crowd that is ignoring me. Is there impatience mixed into that? Most likely. However, I can’t help but to feel that the energy I’ve been expending to send off queries could be better served elsewhere.
Oblivious is no way to go through life. One has to stop and ask ‘why’. Why do you want to do this thing? Why do you repeat the same mistakes? Why? It’s in answering that question that we find what it is that we need to do.
And this is what I need to do: I’m going to publish my novel CLARA using the free service Amazon provides. In a day or two, you’ll be able to purchase CLARA for download on your Kindle. I’ll also be looking into a way for it to be available on other formats. I’m really very excited about this and I look forward to getting my words out there.