On Facebook this week, online friend Fiona Marsden dropped something of a bombshell.
She posted, “I have made a momentous decision. I’m not going to write for publication.”
When I asked if she would still write for enjoyment, she said, “Oh yes. But I find the whole idea of trying to write something that someone else thinks is publishable is too stressfull. It’s taking the joy out of it. I’ll just write what I like and if it isn’t publishable well too bad.”
To some writers this borders on heresy; to others it makes perfect sense. I thought it a brave and very sensible decision to make, and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Having only read entries in Fiona’s blog, her posts on Facebook and in the Bat Cave on eHarlequin.com (don’t ask!) I can’t comment on her creative writing, although her posts suggest she has the proverbial “way with words”.
But there’s a deeper issue at stake here for writers.
Is it okay to enjoy writing, perhaps share your work online, and with family and friends, without seeking publication? In my book, The Idea Factory, I explored the idea of writing for enjoyment, observing that, ” “Painters find it perfectly acceptable to dabble in art and produce unspectacular pictures for their living room walls. Yet for some reason writing isn’t considered acceptable unless it’s for publication.”
Imagine if everyone who enjoyed designing clothes felt their work wasn’t complete until worn by some celebrity on the red carpet? Or if a keen gardener couldn’t sleep at night without medals from the Chelsea Flower Show?
These days it’s fine to publish your own work through the many resources available on line.
With some foresight (Idea Factory was published in 1995), I wrote “You can self-publish. For many years this was a dirty word, but as publishers become what Morris West calls ‘agglomerated’ and mainly interested in potential blockbuster novels, small presses are making a comeback.”
Self-publishing, or indie publishing as it’s known now, can lead to spectacular success. John Grisham’s novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 28 publishers. It was finally accepted and 5,000 copies printed. Grisham bought 1,000 of them and toured the USA selling them himself. Those books are worth more than $4,000 today if you can find one.
Then there’s Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, by British author E L James. Starting life as Twilight fan-fiction online, the book has now been published, selling over 10 million copies worldwide.
Even if this doesn’t happen to you, it’s fine to decide to enjoy playing with words, putting them together in whatever form takes your fancy, without caring whether they’re published or not.
It’s only recently the word amateur has come to mean less worthy than professional.
The word itself comes from the Latin amator meaning a lover of something, describing one who does something for the joy of it, rather than for payment. If dealing with real-world or digital publishing takes “the joy out of it” for you, then write for yourself. Share your work where and when you please. Who knows where it will lead?
Proud Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012
Established Writer in Residence Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth 2012
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