Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On Being Ready As A Writer

I hear warnings to new writers: don't publish until you are ready. Excuse me if I express considerable doubts about such advice.

In all the other arts, performing and showing your work and skills starts immediately. Music and dance recitals begin with the most amateurish of performers because showing your work is a skill as necessary to acquire as the skill itself. You don't wait to show your dancing or your playing. In sports, you don't wait to play until you know the sport, you play the sport. In painting, your work goes into shows. That's the nature of the arts. Nobody is going to hurt the arts by doing it wrong.

Yet for writing, not showing your work is considered crucial, which is just absurd. You write, you publish, and even if you are not ready, you somehow manage to avoid kill the sacredness of the delicate western literary tradition, partly because you don't matter and have no literary impact, but mostly because nothing is going to happen no matter how badly you do it. There is no simply no penalty for publishing before you are ready, other than poor sales, and the western literary tradition is simply in no danger.

In today's self-publishing market, there are numerous skills to master as you must see your work through to publication, so learning the ropes and learning to present your work means knowing how to walk out on stage, make a fool of yourself, and keep on playing with a smile. Those skills won't get learned if you wait until you are ready to publish. In fact, it's the other way around. You want to practice your publications skills on your worst works so that you can learn the self-publishing game. When you do develop your writing skills to the elite levels, and you begin selling to readers because they like what you write, then you will have the skills necessary to see that success through.

So go ahead, new writers who can't get published anywhere. Publish. There's everything right with doing that. That's how you learn to play the game.