Eventually you will learn that the real competition
is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.
George A. Sheehan, Running and Being
Canadian feminist writer Betsy Warland, in her award-winning book Breathing the Page, describes the quality we writers need to sustain ourselves through the highs and lows of the writing/publishing process as
When I was writing my memoir, I worked with Betsy as my editor. When the manuscript was finished, I gave it to a copyeditor, and then, despite much trepidation and doubt, I sent it out to a few carefully selected publishers.
After seven months and two rejections, I received an affirmative reply.
I remember where I was when I received it, in March, 2021. It was my first restaurant visit since the pandemic started. I was meeting a woman who had been part of my master’s degree cohort. As I waited for her to arrive, I opened up my tablet and there it was…
“We are very interested in your manuscript.”
I had to read it a few times to believe it.
I stood up from my seat, my body on fire, like I had just drunk ten cups of coffee.
Okay, maybe one. (I never drink coffee).
Wow, it’s really happening. I am about to live the life I have always dreamed. I am not the same person I was a minute ago. This. changes. everything. I am about to become a “real” writer…
Which led me to a pandora’s box of questions:
What determines when someone is a “real” writer? Or Who?
How many words do they have to write or books do they have to publish?
What about a writer who, over three decades,
has written hundreds of journals, numerous unpublished manuscripts,
and two books (one co-authored),
produced one spoken word CD,
performed their own play, poems and stories in front of hundreds of people,
published essays in peer-reviewed journals and anthologies,
edited six collections of students’ writing and
facilitated hundreds of hours of writing workshops?
Surely they would be considered a “real” writer.
Ultimately, the question I faced was,
Why did I still not consider myself a “real” writer?
Back to the story:
After a brief exchange of emails, I waited and waited,
until I finally decided to send a check-in email in September 2021.
It’s February 2022 and I still have not heard back. Okay, Ahava, it’s time to send the memoir out to other presses.
The first time I sent the memoir out, it took so much energy and courage. Make that COURAGE. It’s vulnerable to share our words with others, whether we are reading them aloud in a circle after just writing them, or submitting them in a manuscript we’ve laboured on for a long time. Our stories are tender, messy, difficult to convey.
This time, it’s also taking a lot of care and kind reminding that this is what I want.
However, Something. Has. Changed. In. Me!
I have made a profound shift in orientation.
I do not need to be published by a reputable, established, or hell,
any publisher, to see myself as a real writer.
I write to make meaning,
I write to celebrate success and honour failure,
to acknowledge joy and pain.
I write to express the rupture and rapture of being human.
I write because I
love to play with words,
love how they connect me to myself and the world,
love their power and poise and sonorous beauty.
All of this makes me a real writer.
End of story.
Well, almost… some new questions are emerging: