Here’s a question you don’t hear asked often in today’s writing/publishing climate: What if the only end result of writing was to tell a wonderful story to an audience? And what if that “audience” was as small as a circle of a dozen friends, or a social group, or a family gathering? Would you still write?
I ask myself this question more and more as I watch the illusion of a “big payout” in the publishing world glimmer as though in a distant galaxy, winking in and out of clarity. Big Name Writers are walking away from Big Money at Big Publishers to sell directly to the people, and, thanks to the rise of the e-reader, the little people are publishing themselves. (Hopefully, everyone engaging in an act of publication is taking great care to hone their words, to *care* about what they write, too. Because it matters, even if it’s only a circle of 12–more on that soon).
And while the little girl in me who dreamed of being her generation’s Louisa May Alcott has a few moments of disappointment or sorrow at this collapse of the old model, more and more now I’m feeling excited. Why? Because I see it as an opportunity for writers to get back in touch with what really matters about writing: Writing as a Path, with a capital P, and also a Practice. Not writing to get rich, or writing to become famous, but writing to apprentice oneself to a meaningful craft because it expands one’s own heart, soul an sense of purpose in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I think writers should be well-paid for their art, just as I think teachers and healers and others of that ilk should be. Every time I meet a writer who lives on the fruits of his or her labor, I thrill inside that there is another one! But it has taken me a long time to realize that the writing has to give as much to the writer as it does to the reader, and that soulless, bloodless pursuit of publication probably does more harm than good.
And not to empty a cache of easy cliches, but I believe Joseph Campbell’s statement that if you “follow your bliss” the doors open, the money flows, and more importantly, happiness.
What would it be like if you wrote because it made you feel worthy, bigger, and joyful?