Get Published or Die Trying… or Would You?

Daniel Maclise - Caxton Showing the First Specimen of His Printing to King Edward IV at the Almonry, Westminster

I bet this post would be immensely popular had one or two of my books been published by a major publisher—but I’m not there (yet). Or had I published one or two of my books myself, which ideally had been well-received—like Cristian Mihai, whose book “Jazz” I recommend. But I’m not there (yet) either.

So let’s assume that this will definitely happen in the future and that right now, I’m “writing ahead” as an investment.

I’m well aware of the optimism bias—something I picked up from Tali Sharot’s brilliant TED talk—and that it may never happen. But I also picked up something else: Being optimistic makes you try harder and become happier.

So here I am, writing this post while taking a break from the arduous task of writing short stories and a book review—which will prove to be satisfying in the end, as always.

So here I am, writing and trying to get published. Sort of. I admit that it would be fantastic to get published and get my books read by thousands. But it’s not my main goal.

When my colleagues at BOM Cerpen1 asked me, “Why do you write?” I said, “I write for myself”—echoing Cyril Connolly:

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

But instead I should have said, simply, that writing makes me happy. As Carol Saller said in an interview with Advice to Writers:

Writers will never be happy until they realize that getting published is not a worthy goal. Writing is the best part of being a writer. Getting published gives you moments of happiness, but it’s nothing compared to the extended happiness of writing itself.

Now that we have touched on happiness, in his excellent book “On Writing” Stephen King reminds us what writing is all about:

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.

I don’t know if I will ever get published or if I enrich the lives of those who read my work. All I know is that, when I was still in elementary school, my classmates liked the detective stories I wrote. Some people like the stories I write now. I almost never like my writings, but I do know that I enjoy the process of pondering over every word. I know that being a writer gives me infinitely more happiness than being a corporate slave society expects me to be.

I also know that, published or not, I will write till the end.

What about you?

1 An Indonesian online platform which publishes short stories written by aspiring Indonesian writers.


15 thoughts on “Get Published or Die Trying… or Would You?

  1. I definitely sympathize with the final sentiment – I want to share with others that splendid feeling of intrigue and joy I get when I read a good story.

  2. You include some excellent quotes and thoughts here. I am reading and reviewing the booking “Writing Well” and the author Mark Tredinnick says there – “My book is about making beautiful sense.” I think that’s as excellent a reason to write as any – to make beautiful sense.

    Thanks for the post.

      • So far, I’ve just made it through the Prologue and part of the first chapter and I’m hooked. I’m reviewing it over the next several weeks at my blog if you want to check it out.

  3. Pingback: Writing Posts on Worth Reading on a Saturday Night | A Way With Words

  4. This is wonderfully refreshing insight, especially as I myself write with the intention (hope/goal) of one day being published. The writing is rewarding in itself, and I would do well to remember that.

    Though I would still readily embrace that elusive validation of seeing my name in a professionally bound volume 🙂


  5. Really interesting read. And such a problematic theme. What would happen if all writers gave up because they hadn’t been published. It takes such faith and determination to carry on. After ten years at least plugging away I have a book coming out next year. Writing is life. You might like my blog and site at
    You have an instantly agreeable blog style. Well done.

    • Thanks for reading and for the compliment. I really appreciate it! Writing is life, indeed. I don’t usually read poems because I rarely understand them, but I’ll definitely check them out. Congratulations on your book! 🙂

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