2. Writer and writing teacher Aaron Hamburger makes this point:
Writing without rejection is like playing tennis without a net—it’s just not the same game. Actually, it’s not the game at all. I’m not just saying that rejection is a helpful tool for writers. In fact, the business of rejection and the business of writing are one and the same.
This is what writers do. We invite rejection into our lives. Constantly. If you’re not getting rejected, you’re not a writer. You’re a hobbyist.
And I want to react to this. Actually, I sorta don’t want to react to this — I don’t want to get caught up in trying to argue about advice. But this comment stayed with me over recent days, and I do want to say this:
I don’t want to say he’s wrong, but I wonder what exactly what is the “game” and the “business of writing” that he’s talking about? I mean, yes, if what one wants to do is sell one’s texts, then, sure, by all means, one ought to market oneself to anyone who will entertain pitches. But I don’t think that “writer” means this, exactly. Someone who wants to sell their work is a “commercial writer,” and someone who just wants to get published, whether there’s pay or not, is just eager for attention. Writers who write for the joy of creating, or who really feel they have an important idea to share, perhaps we are “hobbyists,” but I guess I don’t see that as a put-down.
To get published by someone else is to write something that the editor/publisher likes. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but neither does that mean that anybody besides the writer and the editor likes the writing.
I remember hearing or reading somewhere a while back that book publishers have never made much money from publishing “important” works; their income mostly came from selling cookbooks and smut. Today, I’ve been thinking that publishing a book for any reason other than making money might possibly be a bit silly.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with publishing, but that maybe it just doesn’t matter very much, from the perspective of the moment of creativity. Once a text is complete, it’s in the writer’s past. We work in the present. It’d be sorta terrific to get a royalty check every month (or to be royalty, and have a sinecure income, no?), but, eh, I don’t know that money helps me to be any more creative.
Once we’re done with a piece of writing, once we’re no longer engaged in working with a text, the text becomes a product — I like to think of my completed texts as the byproduct of my real purpose, the experience of being engaged with writing. I would write even if I threw away my pages or didn’t save the files. I don’t do this, because it is sometimes interesting to re-read my work (from more than a year ago or so; any sooner, and the work seems too familiar to me and I tend to read the text in a context of “what I should have said” or “how I should have said it.” After a year, and I can look at the writing more as separate from me and my mind.), but I write not to produce things but to have the experience of writing. If what gets written interests others, great, but if it doesn’t, I don’t think I care. I can’t really do what I most enjoy doing — exploring the ideas and poems and etc. that I want to explore — if I had to write for an audience. I write for an audience of me, I guess (as some of my posts would indicate) — for whom else would writing be more satisfying to me?