Publish or Perish: It's Not Only for Academia, Part 2

Emily Hanlon
 


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The Writer's Journey Is the Biggest Payoff of All!

There are ways, too, to share our writing short of being published. Several come to mind. I think of Terry, a writer in one of my weekly workshops. He’d been working on his book for several years and during that time, the make-up of the group hadn’t changed much. All five of us had pretty much been with Terry throughout the creation of his novel. When he read the last chapter for what he hoped would be the last time, we listened, wanting it to work for his sake, but knowing if it didn’t, we would tell him that, too. I remember my heart beating faster as he read. It’s working, so far… so far… I kept thinking. And it was! When he finished, we spontaneously burst into applause and cheering—there were even a few wet eyes! The ending was perfect.

Grinning, Terry said, “This is as good as it gets, isn’t it?”

I have to agree with him. For what agent, editor or reader is going to know all that it took for Terry to triumph as he did? No one else, but Terry himself, can love his characters so deeply as those of us who had shared in their creation.

I think, too, of my own experiences during the writing of Petersburg. My daughter was a freshman at the University of Vermont. She was quite unhappy the first semester, so my husband and I made the seven hour trip to Burlington at least twice a month. During those drives, I read chapters and chapters of the book. He gave me feedback. We talked and argued over characters. He challenged me, as he is wont to do. Our love for the characters as well as the characters themselves grew with the sharing. And together we developed the plot. (I called him “The Plot Meister”. ) We cried, too, as events brought pain, sorrow, joy, redemption and finally resolution into the character’s lives. I remember the day I read him the last chapter of Petersburg. We were driving down a highway banked in snow and tears were flowing so furiously, my husband had to pull over to the side of the road.

Another memory… It was eleven o’clock at night and the phone rang. I picked it up and my daughter shouted at me, “How could you? I’ll never forgive you! Never!”

“What? I asked. “What did I do?” She was very angry and I couldn’t imagine why.

“You killed him! You killed _!” (I won’t tell you who, in case you haven’t read Petersburg yet and would like to. Don’t want to ruin the suspense!) “How could you kill him off? I loved him. I’ll never forgive you for that. Never!”

I smiled. My Inner Writer and I were taking flight!

Even now, writing this brings back the intensity of these experiences, none of which would have been diminished if the book had not been published. And each of which hold far deeper, more tender places in my heart than any publication kudos.

~

One of the great challenges that we face as writers is to understand in the core of our beings that the journey of being a writer is the biggest payoff of all. That’s when the magic happens, when unknown corridors within open, when writing becomes the song of the soul. There is inexpressible pleasure that comes from the unleashed imagination; the effortless flow of words; the appearance of characters who say the unexpected and do the unpredictable. There is inexpressible pleasure in waking up in the morning, hungry to return to my characters and their stories. Then there is no such thing as a “bad writing day. ” Then there is only the writing, and my doing what feels as natural as breathing.

I have come to believe that the “bad days” only seem more prevalent than the “good days” when I am dry of passion. And that only happens when the insidious brute, Publish or Perish, sneaks up on me. I hope one day soon to be fully free of the brute, to know as surely as I breathe that every day I write will be a good day, simply because I have written. In closing, I am taking lines from a cumulative poem, Why I Write from The Message Board of The Fiction Writer’s Journey.

Why I Write…
A cumulative poem
Writing is soul, breath, it is the way into
self and the universe.
Words become like one-way mirrors,
our characters see their reflection,
while we see through the mirror,
in search of the I
I do not know I am.
Giving life to imagination,
filling it with color, texture, passion.
Sipping the wine of words with the Muse
I am emboldened, enlivened,
at one with the Universe.
Inside there is chaos waiting to be understood . . .
waiting to be written into order.
And there is also order waiting
to turn into wildness and freedom through words.

Writing is a WOW!

It is the punch of life pulsing through minds.
To add flames to a fire that burns inside.
To explore parts of my soul that I have not yet touched.
To satisfy something with-in. To find a voice. To dig deep. To be. To revive the lilting, longing
of the impervious soul…

To feel my pen glide across the paper
To become more human
And somehow less.

Less afraid to be the real you,
Less willing to give into others.
More willing to grow as a person,
More able to fight your demons.

I write because then I can be heard, and fully known
. . . . heard by the universe of my mind.

To give in to the desperate longing
of my soul to reveal itself.

To provide a voice
For silent thoughts
That scream to have a choice

I write to remember who I am.
to drink in the light of the moon…
to illuminate the day
and extinguish the night
to fight fright.

I write quite simply, because my characters want me to.
They have a tale to tell, and have chosen me to tell it.
Who am I to ignore such generous offers of story telling?

Emily Hanlon is a writing coach who works with writers all over the world on the telephone. She is the author of 8 books of fiction, including Petersburg, translated into several languages and reached the best sellers list in England. She leads writing retreats for women and workshops in this country and abroad. Her websites are: http://www.thefictionwritersjourney.com and http://www.awritersretreat.com

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