Writer’s Musings: The Temperature At Which Books Burn

“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking”
– Albert Einstein

When I first started writing, I had no plans to publish. In fact, I was terrified to do so. I thought somehow that when I did, the critics would come out of the woodworks, and I would be inundated with naysayers decrying my work as unsophisticated garbage. I would be cast away from Twitter to the hole of my private Facebook forever, only every coming out to post the occasional cat meme. (This is of course an exaggeration, but that’s how the mind of someone with little self-confidence works.)

But as Elizabeth Gilbert explains in her book Big Magic in the chapter, “In Praise of Crooked Houses,” there is something to be said about done being better than good. Like in Gilbert’s example of when she published The Signature of All Things, when I published Daylight Chasers in January 2020… not much happened. There were no four horsemen of the apocalypse that swooped down, no natural disasters occurred, and for the longest time, I didn’t even have a single review.

Not much happened, because, at the end of the day, not many people cared. That’s not to say that friends and family weren’t excited for me, or that there aren’t people who enjoyed the book. But in reality, most people are very much focused on their own lives, and can’t be bothered to cut down a seedling author in their publishing infancy.

Because of that, I gained confidence in my ability to write and publish something that I could be proud of. This led me to finish writing The Fable of Wren and begin the arduous task of editing and querying it for publication. I became more involved on Twitter, wrote more, started posting my writing online and developed a website, wrote some more, and finally started this newsletter. And oh yeah, wrote a little bit more after that.

But the unintended by-product of my publishing journey threatens to stutter my writing to a halt. It’s something than many of us fledgling (and I daresay, some professional) authors struggle with. When the pressure to publish and write to a market becomes too great, the well of creativity can dry up.

As the author Julia Cameron explains in her interview with The Ones You Feed Podcast, when writing we’re drawing from our inner well of creativity. But we need to ‘restock’ our creative images in our well periodically, and to do so, we need to focus on ‘artist states’ that promote play and observation. Music, walking, film, and other pleasurable activities are all things that refill our creative wells.

The problem is that the concept of artists states, or play, can be incongruous with the work forward strategy that is sometimes pushed in publishing spaces. We’re expected to perform quickly, consistently, and not waste too much time on projects that aren’t going to go anywhere.

It saddens me to see authors that I admire become inundated in a game of make-believe where they can’t be authentic to themselves and ultimately sabotage their own writing in order to achieve their dreams. It is something that I have to consciously and continuously remind myself, that I don’t want to become enveloped in a trap where publishing kills my creativity. To my readers, I hope for you to stay true to your path, and remember that at the end of the day, it’s the love of the process, not the results that will feed your soul.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *