As I’ve mentioned in a couple other places on this site, this year (2016) saw the appearance of my very first publication, a rhetorical analysis article called “One World to Rule Them All” (if you’d like to know more, check out the My Publications tab).
Like most aspiring authors, I thought being published would mean everything. I used to imagine receiving a proof copy of my first novel in the mail (because of course, my first publication would be a bestselling novel, not a lowly research article) and being so overcome that I would cry as I held it (even though I rarely cry). Neither of these things happened – and yet, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.
First of all, the more I’ve learned about writing and publication, the more I’ve come to realize that expecting your very first publication to be a novel, especially a bestselling one, is a bit too ambitious. Sure, miracles happen, but the truth is that becoming an author involves a lot of hard work and, at first, dedication to small projects. Agents and publishers who work with novelists want to know that you, the newcomer, have some experience and credibility in the writing world, so it’s important to have a respectable list (around four to six) of published pieces before you approach them. It doesn’t always have to happen this way, but it sure helps you get a foot in the door.
Remembering how I used to feel about publishing, I’m sure that’s not the news you wanted to hear. I totally get that. Publication is the big shiny goal we all want to get to; it’s what we regard as the ultimate success. Growing up, I had all kinds of plans for getting published, none of which panned out. But this little article was the one I didn’t plan, and it’s the one that ended up being my first publication. It actually started as an assignment for one of my college classes, and through the guidance and encouragement of an awesome professor, I was able to submit it to the Young Scholars in Writing journal.
So how did it feel? I’ll be honest with you: the moment of acceptance was the high point for me, not the day I saw my essay in print. Getting accepted for publication meant all my work had actually produced fruit and IT WAS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!! The memory still excites me, as you can tell.
After acceptance, though, I still had a really long road ahead of me. The next few months were spent editing my essay, with the help of my professor and the editors of the journal. It was a LONG process (did I mention long?) and at some points I thought it would never actually be finished and published. In fact, there were moments when I could barely stand the sight of my essay, I was so tired of editing it. When I finally received my contributor’s copy of the journal in the mail, it had been about a year and a half since I first began writing it for class.
Don’t get me wrong, I was completely psyched to get my copy of the journal and read my essay, author name, and bio in official print. But my predominant emotion was relief – all the loose ends were tied up and my work was finally done. I could move on to other writing projects knowing this one was complete. I could treasure the finished product instead of obsessing over a work-in-progress.
So what is my bottom line here? Publication is awesome, but it isn’t everything. First and foremost, your satisfaction should come from the writing itself, because if you don’t absolutely LOVE writing – if you don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking of plot elements or freak out because you just got the best character idea – you probably don’t want to pursue publication, because it’s a long road that only love of your craft (and the grace of God) will carry you through. But if you love what you do, no amount of rejection can ever take that away from you.
It’s absolutely thrilling to be accepted for publication, and I really hope you’ll know this feeling someday soon. I hope I’ll know that feeling again very soon. Just remember to enjoy it all: the concepts, the writing, the editing (be careful not to pull your hair out), the acceptance, and at long last, the publication.
Thanks for reading! God bless y’all.