I read Anne Lamott's awesome book, Bird by Bird, and was impressed by her wisdom. One of the subjects she wrote about was the expectations of publication, and the pitfalls. How one minute the published author is on top of the world, and the next minute that same author is back to feeling doubtful and insecure.
Anne Lamott wrote this:
"All that I know about the relationship between publication and mental health was summed up in one line of the movie Cool Runnings, which is about the first Jamaican bobsled team. The coach is a four-hundred-pound man who had won a gold in Olympic bobsledding twenty years before but has been a complete loser ever since. The men on his team are desperate to win an Olympic medal, just as half the people in my classes are desperate to get published. But the coach says, 'If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it.' You may want to tape this to the wall near your desk."
She goes on to say that "Being enough was going to have to be an inside job."
I love that. Too often we think this thing or that accomplishment will make us happy, or make us somebody. In my opinion, being published can't make us happy, or make us somebody--it can only add to who we already are.
I don't have experience with a published book, but I've experienced magazine publication. It was such a thrill, to be sure, but it wasn't a requirement for my happiness. I felt excited, validated, and ready to move on to the next thing.
Lamott tells the story of how she'd sought advice from her son's preschool teacher. She was lost and trying to find "some elusive sense of serenity." The young teacher told her, "The world can't give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts." She said, "I hate that." And he replied, "I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can't take it away."
Brilliant, right? If you haven't read Bird by Bird yet, I highly recommend it. This book is packed with wit, wisdom, sadness, and encouragement. We writers can be a hopeful, worried, confident, doubtful bunch, and it helps to know that we're not alone.
What are your thoughts on Lamott's words about publication? Did the light click on in your head and you thought YES! And if you're published, how did that milestone change your life?