If Only

Fred Shaw tells the story:
“Once I had the good fortune to talk with William Faulkner. “Tell me about your writing course,” he said. “Do your students want to write, or do they want to be writers?””

Do you want to write? Or do you want to be a writer? According to Fred Shaw and the professionals in the field of writing, wanting to be a writer and wanting to write are two different things. If you want to be a writer, if you want to get published, you can get published only if you have the perseverance and dedication to do so. A writer writes, day in day out, without expecting anything in return, because it is the only thing to do.

How many times have I heard my writer friends say ‘if only an editor…’ over and over. I know I have repeated that phrase myself a million times in the past and still do. How many times have you thought to yourself, “If somebody would publish my stuff, I’d write every day.” It’s such wishful thinking that an editor would take the time to read your material and believe in your talent as a writer. But I have been told a million times that the real trick is to keep on writing when no one even cares whether you do or not.

The problem is we care. I care. You care too. Because we think that no one takes us seriously. That is until we hit it big. The case is true even for us bloggers. Have you ever noticed how the articles that make it on the Freshly Pressed page of WordPress get so many likes from other bloggers? Why? Because many of us are hungry for recognition. We want to be seen, to be noticed, but most of all to be taken seriously so that we can go on writing, blogging.

Not all the posts that make it on that front page are worthy of being there. There are bloggers with exceptional talent, who start out but somewhere along the way stop and quit. Why do they do it? Why do they give up writing? If asked they might say that they have to make a living and that they don’t have time to write. How many times have we heard that ‘the day is not long enough’? On the other hand, how many times have we heard success stories of people making it in the writing world while working full time jobs? John Grisham is a living example.

I think the real reason these bloggers and writers stop blogging and writing is because after giving it everything they have, when no one acknowledges their talent, their skill of writing, they’re heartbroken and hurt. Not everyone can keep on writing in the face of loneliness, rejection and doubt. What they need, what we need, are editors like David X. Manners, who described the way he tackles his job in publishing as follows:

“Five days a week, seven hours a day, I sit at an editorial desk in one of New York’s largest publishing houses. Often, it seems I sit there longer than that, particularly when the manuscripts are bad. And they do get fragrantly bad at times. Yet, willy-nilly, after I read a story I write a report on it, including a comment which I hope may be helpful to the author in the future.
I do that, partly out of the goodness of my heart, but mostly because my house needs stories urgently. And so, where I might be tempted to pass off my comment with a simple “lousy,” “terrible” or “this smells,” I restrain myself and try to point out exactly the shortcomings that keep the yarn from ringing the cash till.”

If only editors today had some goodness in their heart…
If only blog hosts didn’t rely on algorithms to choose their best articles. If only.


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7 Responses to If Only

  1. There is an interesting distinction between the desire to write and the desire to be a writer, as you’ve mentioned. It’s funny how I hesitated to call myself a writer until I was actually published. When asked in the beginning, I said, I write a little. Actually, I was much more prolific back then than I am now and I ask myself, is it because I have already received that recognition and don’t feel the same intense desire to be published that I had before? Maybe it’s because I’m just lazy or maybe it’s because I have found this new medium to express myself, called blogging. When blogging, I receive feedback on my words much more immediately and don’t have to wait ten years to get that approval. It’s something I shall have to ponder a bit before I can come up with an answer. 🙂

    • chichikir says:

      When Asked what I do, I say I am a blogger. I guess it’s easier as you said to interact with people by just blogging. Happy blogging and writing Susan 🙂

  2. thinspaces says:

    I began writing as a kid, and the fire increased as I came into my early 20’s. And then, I quit. For a lot of reasons, actually, but being afraid of trying and afraid of not being any good were part of it. Part too, was the whole process being just so overwhelming. Not only did I have to write something of value, I had to then sell it. I felt woefully under qualified. Personal issues kept me from gaining confidence and for many years all I did was journal. Now, I am back in the mix. I still have my hang ups – I have a hard time even posting a blog if I don’t feel like it’s good enough. But lately I have decided I am going to post more often, more “willy nilly” and to hell with perfection. I have a blog (http://thebackbedroom.com) that I use now for my willy nilly’s and I am keeping my thinspaces blog for times I want to be spot on.

    And it’s true – there aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes. And I don’t have a lot of followers. But I will keep trying, because what else is there? Time is short – I have nothing to lose but more time.

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