Wonderful, thought-provoking post.
In my day-to-day work as an agent, I am the bearer of far too much “bad news” to authors. I strategize futures in an industry where the future is anything but certain. I answer unanswerable questions, balance realism with optimism, and do my best to soothe troubled souls. In my brand-new role as self-published author, I experience the angst of writing a book and then desperately hoping people will read it. I’m well aware that the writing and publishing life isn’t an easy road.
Advice to authors always seems to be along the lines of persevere, don’t give up, keep trying, be patient. But there is an aspect we don’t talk much about, and that is the very real heartbreak that seems to be part and parcel of the publishing journey. I think we all have to ask ourselves: What is this writing life worth to us?
This quote from Umair Haque (slightly edited) says it beautifully, although it wasn’t written about the writing life—it was written about LIFE:
What’s it worth? … here’s the inconvenient truth: it’s going to take more than the tired old refrains of hard work, dedication, commitment, and perseverance. It’s going to take very real heartbreak, sorrow, grief, and disappointment. Only you can decide how much is too much…. A life well lived always demands one asks of one’s self: is it worth it? Is the heartache worth the breakthrough; is the desolation worth the accomplishment; is the anguish balanced by the jubilation; perhaps, even, are the moments of bitter despair, sometimes, finally, the very instants we treasure most? There’s no easy answer, no simplistic rule of thumb. The scales of life always hang before us — and always ask us to weigh the burden of our choices carefully.*
I am especially intrigued by the notion that our moments of bitter despair might end up to be the ones we treasure most — possibly because of their tendency to be turning points for us.
The last line of the quote — imploring us to weigh the burden of our choices carefully — weighs on me especially heavily. I must count the cost daily, and choose, again and again, which way I will go.
Is is worth it? Is your heartache worth the possibility of readers connecting with your work? Is the desolation worth the accomplishment of writing “The End”? How do you know if it’s worth it or not?
*Umair Haque quote from HBR blogs, 1/22/13, “How to Have a Year That Matters”
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If you’re thinking about getting published, you may be interested in my e-book: How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, available now on Amazon.