Why I’m Giving Up On Being Published

February 19, 2016 § 41 Comments


A guest post from Woz Flint:

Woz FlintWhen I was five, I wrote my first poem about the wonders of bubblegum. It was silly, it was sassy, and it was my gateway into the world of the written word.

Over the years, I continued to pen poems and create characters for fun. This became part of who I was and I never thought twice about why I was doing it. I just did it and I loved it.

Yet, somewhere along the line, someone, perhaps a well-meaning teacher, suggested that maybe one day I’d become a published writer.

Something in me shifted.

I no longer longed to be a writer, but instead, a published one.

I got my first taste of publication when I landed a stringer position with a local community newspaper. I was so excited to share my words with the world. Or, in most cases, the family members and friends who were kind enough to read my pieces.

Every week when that paper came out, I rushed to the section what displayed my name and I beamed, reading my words over and over again until I could practically recite the piece verbatim.

But there it was — that byline. It seemed to be surrounded by glitter and fireworks on the page. I was hooked.

Several years later, I would find myself published in a popular online newspaper and there it was again — that byline. It seemed to shine brighter than ever and became my new drug.

I landed it again.

And then again.

I began to write not with joy, but instead with one intention only…to get another byline.

And once that was the goal, not another piece was published.

A year has passed since that last byline was pressed and I’ve tried over and over again to sit down and write pieces for publication. The delight and happiness I had as a child has been replaced by bitterness and resentment. There’s no ease, no bliss, just struggle.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been concentrating on a story I’ve wanted to tell for years. I start each writing session with excitement and end sessions with thoughts like:

“This idea is terrible. No agent will represent you.”

“No reputable publishing house will touch this mess.”

“If you think you’re the next Dani Shapiro, you are seriously delusional.”

Writing, for me, has become a chore devoid of the wonder and joy it once held.

Why? Because somewhere along the way, it became about seeing my name in print rather than sharing my ideas and words with the world. It became more about the notoriety than about the craft. It had become an obsession.

I long for the days when my words were only for me. Hidden in the pages of a messy journal where obscure ideas and characters were born.

So this is why I’m giving up on the idea of being published.

I will no longer write with an editor in mind.

I will no longer write with the payoff of a bestseller on my brain.

Instead, I’ll just write. And maybe, just maybe, that bubblegum sass and glory will open that gateway once again.
__

Woz Flint is a writer, mama, and lover of green olives and toast. After getting her degree in Interpersonal Communication from Ohio University, she made her way to New Mexico where she lives with husband and their 5-year-old son. Her essays have been featured on The Huffington Post and Mamalode.

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§ 41 Responses to Why I’m Giving Up On Being Published

  • leahruns100 says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve pondered this point quite a bit — and finally got very serious about why I was writing what I was submitting. Was it because I had something I wanted to write or was it the draw of being published? Not sure where this is taking me, but I think every writer faces this seeming split. Too bad the publishing fairy doesn’t magically appear when that piece we write for ourselves should be shared with the world.

  • colinandray says:

    I think it is a very natural desire to want to see ones name publicly attached to something of note, but striving simply for more publicity? I think it is quite natural to want to earn more money, but devoting ones life to money?

    To me, there is no difference in the above statements because they both would suggest a lack of rewarding/satisfying direction.

    Perhaps you could step back to the pleasure of creating, and the reward of knowing that somebody is getting pleasure from reading your creations. Perhaps you could lower your sight line a little and enjoy your obviously ability to write by blogging here, and let the responses give you the rewards.

    As for publishing a book? Anybody can publish pretty much anything today. It becomes a question of how much are you prepared to pay to get your work published.

  • I do hope that you continue to write! Writing is wonderfully liberating, be it for personal use or for public consumption. I can empathise with starting sessions with a sense of bouyancy before having self sabotaging thoughts, I guess this is something that is common to all writers. Stick with the publishing though, I published independently and plan to do it gain. Primarily as I want to share with the world something that I feel passionately about and I don’t want to keep it to myself. In addition if it helps one single solitary soul out there then having written pages and pages in my notebook with my spider handwriting will have been worth it..

  • I can’t agree more. I feel worthless because I’m not as published as other writers but I realize that I don’t want to sit in a slim volume of poetry at the back of a library no one will read. I started an Instagram channel (@poemsforyoubyme) and publish short poems there and really enjoy the form constrictions and the supportive community. If at some point a publisher says yes, great, but till then I’m going straight to the reader.

    • colinandray says:

      Publishers will generally only say “Yes” if you are a well known author, or a celebrity. It is basic economics. It costs a lot of time and money to publish a book effectively and either you must come up with the money, or you are asking the publisher to take the financial risk. If you were to submit your drafts to a number of publishers and ask them to quote you for setting up/layout, registering, cover design, hard, soft and eBook availability, distribution, marketing etc., I would guess that “doors will open” …. at a price. Your decision will then be about cost.

  • jerrywaxler says:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts and your own crisis about being a writer. The problem is that we don’t have a choice. Writing is a form of communication, and in order to complete its life cycle, it needs readers. I have found that blogging offers an alternative that combines the self-direction of authentic writing and the thrill of seeing your name in print. Of course, instead of your publisher finding readers you have to find them yourself. That’s not easy but over time you develop a micro-community of your own. By writing on line in micro-communities, we can help each other stay true to our calling. And by reading each other’s words (as I read yours and you are reading mine) we are still performing the magic as Stephen King called it of reading each other’s minds. In an age of social media we’re all publishing, all the time.

    Jerry Waxler
    Author of Memoir Revolution

  • Jan Priddy says:

    Thank you. Many years ago I can recall an author I admire warning that publication was not satisfying in the way I might expect. If I did not love the writing for itself, I should give up now.

    There was a time when I nearly gave up, but this had nothing to do with writing and everything to do with depression. I got past it and I continue to write.

    Thank you for describing your writing, publishing and loss of writerly focus, and discouragement about your purpose as a writer. I have no doubt you will find your way back. You clearly need the writing and when life makes room and your heart speaks, the words will follow onto the page.

  • sapel2013 says:

    I am a writer but do not need to make my living from it as I have another job. That makes all the difference, I realize, in that I don’t need to be published, although I appreciate it when I am. Writers do need readers. Even so, I adopt a multi-tiered approach. I blog (name in print a few times a week.). I scour ideas for magazine articles, op-eds that stand a chance of being published; some are. My more literary pieces, well, tons of rejection letters from all of those literary journals with a rare happy exception now and again.

  • Jan Priddy says:

    What you have written here is powerful proof.

  • tmezpoetry says:

    Woz, I love what you said. I’ve only made known my works on forums, personal websites and wordpress. The genius of this for me is simply, freedom. The freedom to do what I love to do being poor, rich, transitional, switching genres at whim, verbose, loud, soft, and ever searching. The passion pays off ten fold in and of itself.

  • I share your re-discovered passion and joy in writing. Recently I’ve moved forward on projects that were “poo-pooed” by nearly everyone that new about them. So I put them off. Now, I’m back on track and much, much, happier with my process. Thanks for sharing yours.

  • bikurgurl says:

    Thought provoking – going back to your roots to do what you are driven to do, yet having the sensibilities of where you are in your life now. Thank you for sharing!

  • Dana says:

    Yes to all this! I feel the same way. Chasing online bylines became a distraction for me. Now I’m back to writing for my heart.

  • wfedan says:

    This is why I have shifted to self-publishing. I can get my stuff out there, see my stuff in print – but on MY terms, without an editor telling me how to change my story in order to make it more “sellable.” After working in the commercial world as an artist, I finally understand that the traditional publishing world is all about what sells – it’s not abut creating what’s in your heart. Thanks for this article! Shaking my pom poms!
    Thanks to the world of blogging, we don’t need to rely so much on traditional publishing in order to get our voices out there as writers!

  • I understand totally. There is a fine line between writing because I love to write and writing to be praised and glorified. I think it’s important to evaluate my motives often.

  • lgood67334 says:

    Why not submit something to Writer Advice’s Flash Memoir Contest? We want to hear your voice, and we are known for our detailed feedback. Deadline is March 1. Details and Submittable link are at http://www.writeradvice.com.

  • Thank you for sharing this process. Writing is such a personal process to me and I wish to stay with it for the joy of it!

  • marymtf says:

    Writing is a business, Woz. You know, one percent inspiration (that’s the joy part) and 99 per cent perspiration. It’s the business of being published, the business of getting paid for your hard work, and the pleasure of sharing your thoughts with others and of seeing that byline.
    You’re at the beginning of your journey, lucky you. Keep going.

  • Burl Clayton says:

    I’ve come to realize that it takes a special kind of writer to write just for publication, I am not that kind of writer. Writing came to me after I had spent a lifetime traveling throughout the world and a time when I could no longer accomplish successfully my lives work due to injury.

    I write for me and share what I feel like sharing, but do not expect my work to get published. I hope you take the time to write what your heart tells you to write and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and joy the process brings.

  • Janet Boxx says:

    I’m new to writing. Life’s been challenging for my family. I write to work out my thoughts and feelings about my circumstances while attempting to reconcile them with my faith. I hope to encourage others who are experiencing difficult circumstances and also hope fellow Christians will gently hold me accountable if I get my theology wrong.

    I have found that for me, gaining followers is about validation and affirmation. Feeling that I have something to share that resonates with someone else, that helps someone else, gives me pleasure. I’m helping someone and at the same time, they are helping me. So I guess it’s not so much about gaining a name for myself, or making an income from my writing as it is about feeling that I do something well and it helps others.

    I hope you will continue to write for your pleasure and to make your voice known. I also hope that as you cease striving for publication, as you stop writing with an editor’s expectations in mind, that your words will flow freely and with renewed authenticity that others will respond to.

    Best of luck to you!

  • Lorraine Marie Reguly says:

    The same can be said about the “joys” of blogging!

  • Debra DeWeese says:

    Woz, I took the time to read this because YOU ARE A WRITER! I’ve always enjoyed your writing and think it is YOUR GIFT. To hold it back from all of us would be a loss for humanity. Just keep writing. You will always find a loving audience.

  • Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here’s a great post with a refreshing attitude toward being a published author.

  • In my early years of taking writing seriously, I was lucky, or maybe unlucky, enough to be part of a movement, feminism, which was alive with places to publish all sorts of work in all different lengths — and with readers eagerly reading and discussing those works. I got it into my head that I could write what mattered and people would read and respond to it. That movement died out a long time ago, but I’ve never been able to shake the idea that I should write what mattered, not what might “sell.”

    In mainstream publishing niches rule, especially in fiction. In the hurly-burly world outside of the mainstream, distribution channels are (I hope) just starting to coalesce. Eventually (I hope) they’ll make it easier for writers to find the readers who are genuinely excited by their work, and for readers to find writers who inspire them, the way the feminist newspapers, journals, presses, and bookstores did in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Until then — I’ve found it helps to think not of “getting published” but instead of “finding an audience.” My writing thrives on audience — on people who read, listen, respond, discuss. It’s possible to find an audience without “getting published” — and it’s also possible to “get published” without finding the audience that will encourage you to keep growing as a writer.

  • tlhopkinson says:

    Reblogged this on Trish Hopkinson and commented:
    Poets and writers… remember why you write, be “selfish!” Excellent personal essay on staying true to your writing self by Woz Flint from Brevity’s nonfiction blog.

  • Robin Seibert says:

    Thank you for writing this and thank you to Brevity for publishing. As a writer whose goal is to become a better writer, I’ve thought long and hard about spending my time submitting rather than writing. Today I decided my limited time is better spent writing. My pet peeve is that every writing class I’ve enrolled in so far has always ended with,…”where could you send that essay?”
    I’m committed to writing, not chasing my tail submitting.

  • I think this is a universal struggle amongst writer. We begin by writing for ourselves for pure enjoyment, for escape, for distraction, for spiritual connection, and most of all for the stories. Over time, the need for validation grows and in order to feel that we are indeed writers we seek to be published. Publishing one poem, or two poems, or an essay is never satisfying enough and as we feed the beast it grows until we are never satisfied with ourselves or our writing until it has been met with critical success. Soon, even hearing that we’ve done a great job from others is not enough and we are writing for the sake of seeing the blessed byline. I recently came to the same conclusion as yourself, that I need to write for me and from the heart in order to continue enjoying writing for the sake of writing.

  • Teherah says:

    It’s so honest and equally as helpful for those wanting to write professionally. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kim Gorman says:

    Why not write with joy and with the intention of getting published? The two can coexist. Too many artists, writers included, mentally torture themselves unnecessarily. Have fun, write from your heart, and when the time comes to step back and be objective and unattached as you consider audience, flow with that, too. Some will love your work, some won’t, and it’s all okay.

  • Antoh says:

    helow… about your post its like am intrested i also do poems ..wish you help

  • Modwyn says:

    So much truth here! I think every writer who has had a taste of publication can empathize with these feelings.

    Two thoughts from great writers came to mind as I read this:
    In Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, he says, “Write the first draft with the door closed. Write the second draft with the door open.” The first drafts are for us, the writers; we deserve the excitement, the messiness, the half-fleshed-out ideas. Marketing and all that other whatnot with the beta readers and the editors, that’s secondary to the pleasure of writing itself.

    Anne Lamott tackles publication in her memoir Bird by Bird: she flatly says, if you’re writing to get published, stop. She describes how dissatisfying it can be to write with the thought of getting published. And how publication on a large scale may not be as gratifying as we think. She’s got some down-to-earth advice for writers.

  • […] Why I’m Giving Up on Being Published by Woz Flint @ Brevity […]

  • I found my creative outlet by blogging. I blog everyday. I can write whatever I want, post my pictures, and share my creativity with those who appreciate it. I don’t think much about formally publishing., can write anyway i choose, and explore different forms on my blog. I have freedom of expression and it doesn’t have to be perfect. My writing is published everyday by me as soon I hit the blog button : PUBLISH

  • Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Today’s re-blog is a very constructive piece—a penetrating analysis of the exactly wrong reason to write…

  • […] wonderful source of inspiration for authors. The featured article vibrated like neon on the page.  “Why I’m Giving Up on Being Published,” by Woz Flint.  I was […]

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