Many writers write for the wrong reasons — for accolades or awards — and they end up sorely disappointed when their art doesn't “succeed.”
What I think you should do instead is this: stop writing to get published, and start writing because you love it. Here's a little manifesto I wrote for you:
The Writer's Manifesto
Real writers don't write to get published. They write just to write.
Real writers don't write for recognition or fame or notoriety. They write, because they simply cannot not write. By their gifts and a higher calling, they are compelled to create.
Real writers wake up every morning with something to say. And they thank the heavens for an opportunity to do so.
Real writers do not begin the day with aspirations of seeing their words in print; they simply show up, available to be used as a mouthpiece.
Real writers do not need audience or inspiration; they have the Muse.
Writing as an incarnational act
I don't think I'll ever approach writing the same way again after reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking On Water. She helped me understand that writing (or any creative effort) is what she calls an “incarnational activity.”
When you write, I believe you embody a part of the spirit of God the Creator. It is a sacred act, to create — not a means to an end, but the end itself.
This means that the whole point of writing is, well, to write. It sounds redundant, but it isn't. By this rationale, to write with the goal of getting published for the sake of being famous is selfish, if not downright blasphemous.
Writing for the wrong reasons
Let's face it: we all have some mixed motives for wanting our content to be read by the masses. We put such hard work into what we do, it's tempting to want a little recognition. Isn't it?
So we write, because we enjoy it but also because we want to be recognized and celebrated. This is a natural feeling, but also a self-destructive one.
We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers. We grow self-conscious and worrisome about how a certain word or phrase will be perceived. It becomes less about the art and more about how much other people like us.
If you can't write and experience fulfillment through the sheer act of creating, you'd better give up now. You're probably not writing for the right reasons, and you can't expect to get much longevity out of it that way.
Must love… writing
Any passion you practice must be sustainable. And when you do something primarily for the acclaim of others, it hardly ever lasts.
If you cannot learn to love writing, consider moving on to another hobby. This one is not for you, not as a serious vocation, anyway.
You may still occasionally write this or that, but if all you want is to get published, then hire a ghost writer. Or learn how to enjoy writing for what it is — an arduous and sometimes tedious process of continually dying to yourself and being reborn. It is painful and glorious all at the same time and not to be taken lightly.
Writing for the right reasons
Please do not write to get published.
Write because you've been given a voice and something to say.
Write because you simply must do so.
Write because someone else will not.
The paradox is that if you write for these reasons and with daily discipline, you just might get published some day. In the mean time, write because you love it.
Want to read more? Check out the eBook that this post inspired: Get a Free Copy of The Writer's Manifesto!
How have you struggled with mixed motives in your own creative work? Share in the comments.