There has been a blog post making the rounds among writers on Twitter* recently. It is an excellent post by Amy Trueblood called "What If You Never Get Published?". Go on and read it, I'll wait.
Okay, so reading her post got me thinking (again). Writing is a lot of work. I spend hours and hours on it every week—and even more hours thinking/worrying about it. There is a lot of stress and heartache in the constant rejection, the struggle to find an audience, to connect with an agent or an editor or whatever stage you're at. That step of getting a novel published is a huge one. There are many, many of us trying to get past it. Some of us never will.
So is it worth it? Is the intrinsic reward of creation and writing enough to keep me putting in the hours, editing and refining and crying and polishing and writing and going back to edit again? I want to say yes. I want to say that I'll keep at it until I'm old and gray (at least, grayer than I already am!). After all, the difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is persistence.
But for me, writing isn't just about creation. It's about sharing. It's about people reading what I write. Without readers, my books are just hunks of dead trees or fleeting pixels. So if I can't succeed in getting my writing to readers (via being published), at some point it would not be worth it to me anymore.
What is that point? I don't know. It's been over thirteen years of noveling, and I'm only going stronger than ever. I don't see myself quitting in the foreseeable future. In fact, I have plans for my writing that span many years. I already have four completed, edited, unpublished manuscripts, and I know how to "let go" of a project that isn't working. But at some point, I may have to admit that my entire writing career is a project that needs to be let go.
So for me, the answer is that I write for both myself and for the goal of publication. If I didn't have that goal, I don't think I would be driven to work as hard as I do on my writing. That dream keeps me going. One day I may have to set that dream aside, to go into the graveyard of dreams alongside my ballet career and my winning lottery ticket. But that's okay. Life is, as they say, a journey.
*On a side note, I have been following more and more writers and agents lately. Writing is taking over my feed! (Usually it is a mash of personal, fitness, science, writing, and politics people that I follow, and I try not to let any aspect dominate.) It's awesome to have so much support and information, to see people struggling or triumphing with the same challenges that I face. But it's also a little daunting. I am one of many, many, many pre-published authors out there, and it's a tiny pond we're swimming in.