The Great Divide, or, I am not an inspirational speaker, I just play one on this blog

I used to think there was a Great Divide, a deep chasm, between published and unpublished writers, with the huddled mass of unpublished writers forcibly held back on one side of it, like citizens of the former East Berlin. We stare at the other side, all sunshine and rainbows and professional authors sipping cosmopolitans at publisher cocktails, carelessly gamboling on a lush carpet of publishing contracts. And we wonder what’s wrong with us, damn it, why are we still on this side, and when oh when would we finally be let out from this languishing hell of the unpublished?

When you wish for a publishing contract with every set of birthday candles you blow out, and birthdays come one after the next without that wish coming true, the label of “unpublished” begins to chafe, and chafe badly. I stopped telling people that I wrote. And I learned, when people who already knew about my literary aspirations asked that dreaded question—“So did you publish your book yet?”—to shrug as if my failure to attract a publisher mattered no more to me than my inability to grow the world’s heftiest tomato.

Then, one fine day, The Call came. I was toasted, garlanded, and feted. People wanted to ask me questions. They wanted to hear my opinions. I was now a Published Author. I’d leaped the Great Divide at last.

Or did I?

The day I had my first offer, I was so proud of myself. And what was I proud of? Only one thing, my persistence.

Why is that remarkable? Isn’t everyone proud of their persistence? Well, no. I’d been no admirer of persistence. In fact I thought persistence a crock of bleep. Only those who failed had to persist. Why did I want to be among those who failed?

Indeed, wise readers, forgive me for having been so shallow and blind. I’ve been among the most inspiring collection of human beings—Those Who Strive—and saw only what they, what we, as a group, did not yet achieve.

There is no Great Divide. The never had been. It was a construct of my mind, a silly yet dangerous concept. Because of it, I regard my own struggle with scorn, rather than the respect it deserved. I saw only failure, when I was but a learner making the necessary mistakes.

The true watershed events in my quest for publication happened not on the day I got bought, but on the day I first sat down to write the story in my head, on every day that I filed away rejections and did not quit, and on the day when I finally realized that rejections are meant to be learned from, not just filed away. The publishing contract is but a delayed recognition, the slapping on of an inspection sticker after the iron ore has already been forged into steel.

May I always be a member of Those Who Strive.

Next Tuesday, we interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you The Life and Times of Sherry Thomas, an author interview

13 thoughts on “The Great Divide, or, I am not an inspirational speaker, I just play one on this blog

  1. Yes, I agree w/ the other commenters — just what I needed to hear. I like the idea that when we finally get pubbed, it’s just the final step of approval for work that has already been done, and done well. Thanks for another great post, Sherry!

  2. Sherry – I think I’ll agree whole heartedly once I have the contract. LOL! I really can see what you’re saying. Your writing didn’t get any better the day you got the contract, it was just a natral extention. I think it’s the validation more than anything else that makes it loom so large.

  3. Thanks, Sherry. This serves as a great reminder to all who wish for that elusive publication prize. A little inspiration for my coffee and WIP this afternoon! 🙂

  4. Amen to your blog entry, Sherry. The irony is that — because of human nature and personalities — not all published writers gain such insight. Kudos to you. Also, persistence isn’t only the key to being published; Life is a journey of persistence.

  5. Thanks for another insightful post, Sherry! I agree with Robin–the validation is so important to us. And not just any validation–agent/editor validation–people in the know.

  6. Fascinating posting, one that must surely strike a chord with any aspiring writer. Glad you shared your thoughts with us. Congratulations on becoming published after much effort and perseverance. Good for you!

  7. Wonderful post. But I must be truthful and say that it’s much easier to sucumb to the illusion of the Great Divide, particularly when it’s staring you in the face everytime you log onto the internet and read reports about The Market, seemingly empty words of support from new and long published authors. And lol, I agree with Robin L–it’s much easier to shatter the Illusion once you sell. But I’ll keep this post in mind to keep myself out of a rut of negativity.

  8. “When you wish for a publishing contract with every set of birthday candles you blow out, and birthdays come one after the next without that wish coming true, the label of ‘unpublished’ begins to chafe, and chafe badly.”

    Amen to that! A friend recommended your blog to me because I’ve been in the midst of a writing crisis that started when I turned 30 without having published a novel. (I had always wanted to be a hotshot young writer who got published in my twenties.) It’s been interesting to read about your metamorphosis as a writer and the lessons you’ve learned. You’re right that we can hear the same thing over and over again and not really understand it because we’re not ready to confront the truth.

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