The Journey to Publication

What counts as forward motion?

This seems a fitting title for today’s blog since along with many other foibles, it’s been ages since I posted anything.

Today is inspired by the passing of bestselling author, Belva Plain. She published her first novel when she was 59, followed by over 20 more in subsequent years.

This inspired me to consider: what constitutes forward motion or progress? I’ve been writing since I was a child, seriously pursuing publication for about the past six years or so. I don’t know that much about Belva Plain (did she discover writing later in life? How long did she want to be published before she was published? Etc). However, it made me think: what if I’m not published until I’m in my fifties (another 20 some years)? What if I sit down and write each and every day, consistently, continue to improve my craft, submit to agents and editors, etc, but it simply takes me until I’m in my fifties before I see one of my books in print? Do I only truly progress in my writing career once I’m accepted for publication?

I want to say – and I’m fairly sure I believe – that answer is “no.” Even if I’m not published, if I sit down and continue to write, if I am committed to my career as a writer, I’m still a writer, published or not. By continuing to write, I hone my commitment and my craft: what I write now will not (or should not) necessarily be as good as something I write later on. I should continue to evolve and learn about my craft, my voice, my own particular writing the more I write.

Any hesitation to unequivocally say my career progresses so long as I write arises from the same place which causes cringes when someone asks me what I do, and when I say I write, they want to know what I’ve published. That is, what worth can my writing have if it hasn’t already been accepted for publication? “Clearly” it’s a mere hobby unless it’s making money.

Aha! The crux of the matter: money. Can I have a career as a writer- and consider any progress I make in said career – if I’m not yet making money at it? I can hear shouts of yes and no from the many other writers I’ve met, books I’ve read, elsewhere, leaving me still somewhat undecided.

What do you think? Is a career a career if you’re not yet making money at it? Perhaps is the issue simply the classification of “career” rather than “calling” or so forth?

I’d love to hear your comments. But before I say farewell for today, one more thought on Belva Plain. The brief note of her passing says she was first published at 59, and passed in her home last Tuesday at 95. I would like to think for much of the time between first being published and her passing she was still writing. Because in the end, as a writer, that’s how I’d like to live out the last of my days.

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