Call me whatever you like; I am who I must be.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

When I started writing, it wasn’t about being published.  Really.  It was all born out of a love of words and ideas.  I wrote poetry in the beginning; I had no concept of plot or characterization and the attention span of a dust mote.  Somewhere along the way, things shifted, and writing became, for awhile, a way to make sense out of the world.  I wrote about the tragedies I saw around me, the things that frightened me, or made me angry.  Still I wrote poetry, but now there were personal essays and papers for my English classes.

Honestly, I think that’s where the thirst to be published came from – the thrill of turning in a completed paper, something that I’d thought about and agonized over, and re-written until every word shone on the page.  Never for the grade though – it was always all about the writing.

Somewhere along the way, since I’ve begun writing novels, that intense dedication to the writing and only the writing has strayed off course.  Venus reminded me yesterday in a comment she left, of the importance of staying true to ourselves as writers, of avoiding the temptation to try to write what we think will sell, rather than writing the books that only we can write.

Because that really is the point, isn’t it?  Nobody else can write this particular novel because nobody else has a brain that works quite like mine, a set of experiences quite like mine, a perception of the world that is quite like mine.  If I let myself get swept away by the desire for publication and too much consideration of the market, that one thing I have going for me that makes me different from every other writer out there, is at risk of being erased, and I will be left with nothing.

And yet, if I ignore the demands of the market, even if I somehow manage to create a brilliant masterpiece, chances are nobody will ever read what I write.

This is not a new dilemma.  When I was writing those papers for my professors, I often stopped to think: Am I going to write what wants to be written, or aim for that ‘A?’  The truth was, usually writing the paper that wanted to be written, even when it strayed away from the assignment, usually earned the ‘A’ anyway.  

All rewards aside, the matter comes down to integrity, a word that for me means wholeness and congruence and being as fully the self I was intended to be as I possibly can.  As a writer, this means writing my truth, as near as I can get to it.  It means writing the book I have to write, rather than the book I think might sell, and putting everything I have into it.

One of my favorite quotes is from e.e. cummings:

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

And there you have it.  My thoughts adjusted, I am okay to wander around here in the forest for awhile, on this winding path I’m on.  It’s not all about the writing: it’s about Being and Writing, and making sure these two life quests are connected to each other.  Which means the process can’t be rushed.  All I can do is show up every day at the page and keep putting down words, just as I show up everyday for my life and keep trying to be successfully me.  Some days are better than others, some words are better than others, but all of it counts in the long run.

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