I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do---the actual act of writing---turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward. ---- Anne Lamott
So many of my posts seem to be on the same theme---the notion of writing, the beauty of writing, the pleasure of it all, the freedom of the process...compared to the business end of it. Being published.
Yes, I do write about this often because my attempt to balance them both is sometimes the pin that pricks the beautiful bubble of being an author. It's the element that I've found most frustrating---and, hell, even heartbreaking---since I've become a published author. Note: I did not say since I started writing. I said since I became a published writer.
Once that baby of yours, that book you wrote, becomes the property of a publisher, you've sort of signed an invisible contract with yourself that this talent of yours, this beautiful escape of yours, this passion of yours, has in its own way, become a job. You have become an employee. An employee whose job it is to write. And it is such because you are now being paid for this product. It's still---oh, gods, if you will let it be---a wonderful art and form of personal pleasure. But you are being paid by an employer to do it now. And it's official. It's not just you and your private passion. It is out there, baby.
Okay. So now you are an employee, now that this thing has become a job, things change a bit. Like it or not, whether it's still the lovely get-a-way that it's always been, it still has changed. Into your world comes an entire staff of people to produce your product. Into your life, just like in a real, physical office...there comes a bevy of co-workers.
Just like in a real office environment, because you are new to the business end of this new job, you have to learn the ropes. Sure, your new staff are behind-the-scenes----and hopefully with you---preparing your product for its release. As though with any product, a team preps your work to get it ready to hit the market.
This network, this staff---as in a nine-to-five type job you drive to everyday---should be, most importantly, your support. In all working situations, the employees should be a support structure. That is the ideal.
Sometimes, though, it is not. And, in the constant comparison to the literal office job, the lack of the support, the isolation from this needed strength, is damn scary. Discouraging. Often folks just keep on working in spite of it. Maybe the money's too good to walk away from the negatives. Maybe they just don't have enough confidence to walk away.
Seems daily there are reports of authors running into nightmarish situations with publishers---publishing houses folding, publishing houses not folding but making themselves inaccessible to their employees. That, too, is just the same as in any business. There is good and there is bad. There are places where respect is potent. Places where it is not.
The point is: writing, once you have become the employee of a publishing house, is no different than the office job. Whatever guidelines you would embrace in order to navigate in the literal office should be the same in publishing. Your own guidelines, how you would treat fellow staff. Your expectations---no, your rights---of being treated fairly and without prejudice or favoritism by your employer. Your ethics in general. Your professionalism. Your employer's professionalism. Their ethics.
Your employer should be equally available to all staff, from oldest and best to newest and most inexperienced.
There should be no exceptions.
Believe it or not, this all really does come back to Anne Lamott's quote.
Because this new job you've launched is, in reality, a...job...complete with all the positives and negatives of any other employment, you've got to go into it holding on tight to why you started this whole show in the first place.
Because you loved writing. Because you could not not write. Just because you decided to go that extra step to turn that passion into a job does not---cannot---mean that you should abandon the tea party beauty of it all.
Letting go of the love of it all and trying to make it into nothing but a paying prospect will be very obvious in your writing. Your voice will suffer. Sure, readers might still embrace your product and, sure, you might still make bucus of bucks.
But will you really, really, really be happy to have walked away from the magic of it? The beautiful tea party?