I’m not sure I’ve ever met a truly humble writer.
We write because we believe we have something to say. We make authorities of ourselves, and stand upon our soap boxes (or rather sit at our keyboards) so that the world can benefit from our thoughts. Perhaps a strong sub-text is that our readers should also AGREE with what we have to say.
We stand proud and sure. We make proclamations. We share our wisdom. This wisdom of ours need not be erudite musings, by the way. We novelists move and impress our readers by our finely honed craft, created, re-created, polished, and perfect. Our fiction is every bit as important, as earth-moving, as the best book of scientific or psychological thought. Damn. We’re good!
If we publish we know we are better than those who have not yet published. It doesn’t matter if we self-publish either in a free medium or pay someone to publish our books for us. Nor does it matter if the majority of our book sales are to ourselves. Once we’ve “made the grade” we have ascended.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the feeling.
While it is no longer necessary to produce remarkable work to get a finished book in our hands, while we no longer need to be discovered by an agent or publisher to call ourselves published, we are successful. While true critical acclaim rather than the stumbling words of friends or family members who gave up reading our books with sighs of boredom after a few pages, but still felt obligated to say things like “great first novel” in public forums, now serves as endorsement, we have made the grade.
One writer I know proudly announces something like, “…finishing a book isn’t being successful, getting it published is…” This person neglected to say how much it cost to publish the book, but I guess that is neither here nor there. The fact that the book itself is a monotonous list of “told facts” rather than a weaving of shown action is not brought up. Why bother? That writer has “made it”.
You sharp-eyed readers of this blog will probably guess that today’s piece is a continuance of my “series” on quality, and growth in craft.
Yes, we have something to say as writers. That is what defines us. That is what gives us the right to call ourselves “writer”. What I’m not sure we have the right to do is give up on our craft. Success isn’t reaching one low hill and coasting for the rest of our lives. It is using that downhill momentum to get up the next higher hill. It is a process, not a destination.
I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again. Every story, every novel, hell, every page should be better than the one before.
Am I capable of such robust work on a continual basis? Probably not. Maybe the best we can hope for is to keep trying.
Having “made it” isn’t good enough.