On Not Publishing

It’s been years since I’ve published anything. I even went two years without updating this blog. This wasn’t planned. It was a slow, barely noticeable derailment. But like all derailments, I’m left to look back and ask, how the hell did that happen?

Here’s what I can use for an excuse:

  • I’ve been working on a novel for four years
  • What short stories I have written I haven’t submitted to more than a handful of journals
  • All those journals have been highly competitive
  • I’ve been busy raising two kids
  • I’ve had twice as much paying work than I used to, requiring twice as much of my time
  • I waste too many hours on Twitter
  • I waste too many hours thinking/talking about politics
  • I have a lazy streak

All of that’s true. But none of it’s right. None of it gets to the root of why, after publishing at a good clip for a number of years, I’ve released nothing since 2015. The real reason is this:

It wasn’t a derailment at all. I simply stopped worrying about my eventual death.

That sounds somber. It’s not. The thing is, I started writing late. Or at least late for the youth-obsessed publishing world, which likes to reward writers for being great while still being young (the 5 Under 35 award comes to mind).  Since I didn’t start focusing on my fiction writing until I was 34, I felt I needed to play catch-up.  After all, there was still a chance for me to get on a 20 Under 40 list!

But then I turned 40.

And it seemed I had crossed a great and wild river. I would never be a young genius. And that was freeing. Instead of focusing so much energy on publishing, I focused it all on writing the best fiction I can possibly write. Not that I wasn’t trying to write well before. But, now, I don’t worry about when I might publish a piece; I worry about how good it will be when it’s published. And by good, I mean lasting.

I want to write something people will read in 100 years. In 200.

Maybe that’s impossible. Maybe that’s beyond my talent and skill. But it’s what I think about when I write these days. And I have been writing. I’ve been writing a lot. Maybe soon, a story of mine will appear in the world again. Maybe my novel will too. I’m excited about the work no one has seen. I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever done.

 

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