For writers, publication is the holy grail, the magic elixir that gives meaning to the slogging drudgery required to finish a manuscript. Suddenly, it was all worthwhile, every gnashed tooth, every smacked forehead, every expletive. In fact, the agony is often forgotten altogether, like childbirth. (Oh, yeah, took me only 40 months, not too bad, no back labor, just shooting pains in the wrists and a threatened divorce. No, no, everything's fine now; it's a healthy little book.)
But as anyone who has sent their babies out on the Rejection Carousel can testify, publication itself seems more like a crap shoot than a reflection of the quality of our little darlings. Unfortunately, publication is our proof of the pudding; it is the accepted way writers, as artists, are acknowledged. Our words exist primarily as a private conversation between us and the keyboard, either ephemerally as bytes on a hard drive or more tangibly as weighty reams of recycled paper, serving most usefully as a doorstop for our studio or fodder for our writers group. Unless some other entity agrees to publish, it doesn’t exist for a larger audience. Without that tangible published work (no matter where or by whom) to wave and crow about our endless hours in studio can look like more like an excuse to be willfully anti-social.
The way I see it, most other artists
The way I see it, most other artistsdon't need an intermediary to produce their work. Artists who paint, draw or sculpt always have the object that represents their thousands of studio hours ; they can point to it, display it, hang it on a wall. Musicians, after their years of scales and practice, can pull out an instrument and play tunes, whether at a gig, a party or their home where it can be heard by another person instantaneiously. (I agree, the professional part is a bit different, but bear with me.) A dancer can reveal his or her ability on any dance floor. But the writer? We are still bound to a feudal system in which we create the work and then seek a second party for it's manitestation. Except for occassional readings, impromptu recitations or odd requests by Aunt Agatha for a sweet piece for Bertie's engagement party, we are invisible. Without the concrete proof of a published work, no one knows what the hell we’re doing secluded in a studio while the rest of the world parties, goes to movies, takes their first baby steps, graduates cum laude, or blows itself to smithereens.
And so our struggle is two-fold: to make the best work possible and then convince someone to take it.
But I see this changing even as I type. Although I'll continue to submit work, now for the first time, writers can dodge the editors, the arbiters of what will and won’t get published. We can blog, e-publish, podcast and let the audiences be the judge. No more second guessing, no more trying to please some old crotchety guy in Wichita; now we can work to please our own standards, high, low or inbetween, and our own niche-y audience. Maybe we’ll only have 15 readers, but that’s 15 more than we would have had, working the old system.
Don’t get me wrong, if someone agrees to publish any of my stuff, I’d come unglued, salivate like a starving boxer at a barbeque and I agree to just about any terms (yes, you can just call me Print Slut anytime now). But until then,I'll blog, blog away and let the publishers take the hindmost. For these days, the proof is in the blogcast.