Over at her place, J.A. Kazimer (whose Dope Sick: A Love Story should be on your reading list) asks an interesting question: “Are Writers Entitled or Delusional?” (I, of course, reserve the right to be both.) Among other things, she says:
No matter what rejection/criticism/consequences I’ve experienced throughout my ten years of attempting to get published, I always ‘knew’ that one day, my books would be in the bookstore *(little did I know at the time, there would hardly be bookstores anymore).
Was I entitled to publication? No, of course not.
But did I believe, deep inside me, that I was? Hell yes. Otherwise I would’ve never kept going in the face of everybody and everything saying this will never happen.
Often my drive to publication might’ve seemed delusional, and it likely was. Why else would I skip real life events like parties, family outings, relationships with real people rather than those in my head? Writers make sacrifices others won’t understand. Sometimes I don’t understand them either.
I can’t say I ever felt quite that way, and I think my attitude was shaped a bit by my experiences in music and academia. I knew that what I wrote was good enough to be published, but I also knew that didn’t necessarily mean it would be. I’ve known some very good musicians who have never put out an album, or even a single, unless they did it themselves. And Heaven knows I’ve known exceptionally bright, talented people in academia who have never really had a chance at the tenure-track brass ring.
So when it came to my fiction, I’ve never really taken getting published for granted, but I’ve also never thought it was because my work wasn’t good enough. For a very long time, it just didn’t hit the right person in the right place at the right time. So I’d try it somewhere else, or I’d put it in the drawer and try again when I thought I had more time and energy to put it out there. And eventually, for example, Broken Glass Waltzes (now available in paperback!) hit the right people at the right time.
I’ll acknowledge that there’s some vindication to all that — external affirmation that I wasn’t wasting my time — but again, I don’t know if that’s quite the same as feeling entitled to this. And maybe that lack of a sense of entitlement is one of the things that’s letting me enjoy all this as much as I am.