I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked if I’m published, or if I intend to publish my work, but I know it’s a lot. It’s the same as not remembering how many times about the races I’ve run, or when I plan to do a 5k, or a 10k, half marathon or marathon.
The answer is, to both answers, “I haven’t yet,” and I used to be very self conscious about it, until recently.
There was an article on Runner’s World that brought it up. Though the magazine and website is very heavy on racing and how to train for them, what the proper technique is, wisdom from runners all over the world, and how to recover post-marathon, they had an article that was dedicated to running just to run, and it resonated with me.
For so long, I’d felt pressured to race. I felt like I needed that to be able to call myself a runner. It was the same with writing; it was the pressure (nods to yesterday’s post) about publishing something, to become a real writer, to get my name established and out there. But, one point of this blog is to say that just because I haven’t been published does not mean that I am not a writer. Just because I haven’t run a 5k or a marathon, does not mean that I am not a runner, either.
That’s not to say it’s wrong, of course. Like you’re likely to hear constantly after you lose someone close, “Everyone grieves differently,” but all throughout life, people neglect to tell you that everyone does and reacts and lives differently too.
One day, I want to get published, but that is not that day. I want to write because it’s what makes my heart sing, it’s what puts a smile on my face, that I can sit down and bang out a prompt and a piece about a character I feel close to is my bread and butter. I am not going to make myself publish and try to make a living off of writing books, because it would be too hard of a goal to stretch for.
People have said to me, “Oh, you could be the next JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman!” and while it makes me give them a sheepish grin in return, it also doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I don’t know if they are or not, but for me, not having any expectations is the best way to go. I don’t know what’s going to wait for me on the other end of the line when I do look to publish. I know people have turned down my favorite authors countless times before someone worked with them, and I’m not expecting an easy ride. My biggest and baddest novel so far is something that is not for everyone, so I won’t hold out hope, but it’s there. I can go somewhere with it.
I guess that’s another thing, too. When people say, “You could be the next <insert name here>,” my first reaction is to tell them I won’t, not because I doubt their faith in me, but because I’m a different writer. I know it’s not what they mean, but that’s what sticks out in my mind, and it was one of the first lessons I remember from when I was a child: don’t try to be someone you’re not.
I desperately wanted to be like the smarter girls in my class who overachieved, because I was never good at traditional schooling.
When it comes down to it, you have your own style. You are your own person and you go at your pace with your own groove, and forcing yourself to do things like someone else is like killing off the creative genius and wild, wonderful imagination you have.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Imitation is suicide.”
When you run, if you go at someone else’s pace, with someone else’s distance, you’re going to hurt yourself. Even worse, you’re never going to be happy with what you’re doing because you’re not doing as well as they do. It’s not you, it’s not tailored to you and your limits and what you can accomplish on your own.
So write how you write, and publish at your pace, when you feel comfortable. Do not let anyone else tell you that you’re not a writer if you haven’t published. You are a writer when you write, period, just that everyone is a different kind.
-The Novice Wordsmith