The Anticipation of Publication

autographThe advent of the internet instigated some confusion about what it means to “be published.” That accolade is, of course, the dream of most women and men who write.

To be published—historically speaking—has meant that your words have been:

  1. Deemed worthy of being placed in print (at least, by one editor’s subjective determination).
  2.  Made available in some number of copies to millions, thousands, hundreds, scores, or perhaps dozens of eager readers.

Writing “online” was initially dismissed by the publishing industry (and many writers themselves). “It’s not the same,” they would say. Of course not. Yet they accomplish the same purpose, making writers’ heartfelt messages available for others. And, in short time we have witnessed a publishing revolution in which many of the most vibrant and thought-provoking “periodicals” are primarily (or exclusively) online entities.

So, it is quite appropriate to consider oneself published, I believe, if our work has been included in an online publication.

The arrival of print-on-demand technology (and ebooks) magnified the confusion. Now, it costs very little to become your very own Publishing House, and anyone with a few dollars can see their word in literal print. This has had two major consequences.

  1. Freed from the arbitrary whim of editorial bottlenecks, first-class literary works have been published. Works that formerly would have been returned to their creators with form letters expressing the editors’ regret that they cannot find a place in their exclusive booklist for them.
  2. Material that should would have greatly benefited from thorough editing and rewrites now look for all intents, just like real books that merit reading. Works the afore-insulted editors would formerly have protected the world from.

So, it is quite appropriate to consider oneself published, I believe, even when we have self-published our work—assuming, of course, that our book falls into the first category described above.

And today we have blog boom. Millions of posts and columns. Some creative sprouts withered before they had a chance to bloom. But many exquisite writers sowed rich gardens of wisdom and fancy that continue to be pruned and expanded.

All writers hope to become published. And most would like to one day see their words appreciated by as large an audience as possible. When we have an article or book we’ve written accepted by a recognized periodical or publisher, we experience the joy of anticipation. As we look forward to receiving a copy of the final product, our eagerness is tempered by a bit of anxiety. I mean, anything could happen, right? The publication could even go out of business—and that’s actually happened to me.

C.S. Lewis shared this same sort of expectation as his work neared the presses. And, being C.S. Lewis, he was able to reflect on his own thoughts in a brilliant manner. In 1918, as his first book, a collection of poetry, was being published, he wrote his close friend, Arthur Greeves:

So at last dreams come to pass and I have sat in the sanctum of a publisher discussing my own book (Notice the hideous vulgarity of success already growing in me). Yet—though it is very pleasant—you will understand me when I say that it has not the utter romance which the promise of it had a year ago. Once a dream has become a fact I suppose it loses something. This isn’t affectation: we long & long for a thing and when it comes it turns out to be just a pleasant incident, very much like others.

Like Lewis, most of us find the accomplishment of publishing our work “very pleasant.” Still, it’s seldom if ever the mountaintop experience it flirts at being. Literary Sirens sing “once you are published all your dreams will be realized . . . all who meet you will bow in respect at your wondrous achievement.”

Reality is different. Becoming a “published writer” is something about which we can justifiably be proud. But it doesn’t make us better than anyone else. After all, is not a mechanic who can make an engine purr just as talented as a wordsmith who composes music out of prose?

19 thoughts on “The Anticipation of Publication

  1. Well said….it is easy to become proud of yourself for so many wrong and even imagined reasons. We must rely on God’s grace to give him the glory, even when basking in the Likes and Follows of blogging. Thanks :)

  2. Great reality trip and like so many important messages it reminds the reader to be happy now in this moment and not what for the always out of reach until.. to enjoy our lives.

  3. There’s something magical about seeing your words and name in print the first time. To hold it like a fragile butterfly. Yep, pride goeth before a fall ( and the very next day that usually happens…) But that golden moment.
    God gave you a brain and told you to use it – don’t you think he’s saying “way to go, I knew you could do it” when you actually do what he sent you to do?
    That next day…that’s also a gift to remind us not to rest on our laurels….(funny how many don’t pick up on that second part…)
    Enjoy the smiles!

    1. So true. Success bears a delicious taste… but it’s only one step in the long progress of our lives. I think major successes are able to serve us as milestones to see how far we have traveled.

  4. Literally, the day after my first book came out (I was 14) my father asked me, “When are you going to publish your next one? You can’t sit on your laurels, you know.” (It would be three years.) You can imagine how driven by “publish or perish” I felt living growing up in that family! My parents and both brothers were having their books published!

    Now I’m content with a very small blog.

    But Rob, what I came here to ask is, apart from this blog, what have YOU published or what are you ABOUT to publish–and where can we read it?

    1. Jessica, my heart goes out to the little girl who wasn’t allowed to simply bask in the warmth of that amazing success. (So young to be published!) I hope you’re not subject to that pressure any longer. Saying you’re content with blogging is an indication that this is so. Do tell about your books–still available?

      Oh, my writing. Well, very little is available online. I’ve given some thought to adding a few of my modest articles on C.S. Lewis (several published in the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society Lamp-Post) to a website I created ages ago. (Back when the internet was in its infancy.) It’s called C.S. Lewis Chronicles and it hasn’t been updated for a while.

      I also edit an online journal for military chaplains. I have some articles and poems in the biannual journal called Curtana: Sword of Mercy. You might enjoy the brief piece in the first issue that explains the naming of the journal. Once again, due to a too-busy life, it’s behind its publication schedule. But, in case you’re interested:

  5. CalebAnderson

    I agree, being published is seldom as glorious as it seems it should be. Usually after the first two or three days of seeing a poem (speaking of my own publishing experiences) in print, it no longer seems that wonderful of an achievement, especially when it’s published in a paper one has had 7 other poems in. Though of course, it still is nice to see one’s name in print.

  6. Well done Rob. I am ambivalent on this topic. In my academic world, self-publication has happened since before Lewis’ time, and has always been viewed as illegitimate. I hope my work will see its way through the publishing maze. If not, I’ll have to face the question again!

    1. Ah, yes, Brenton. In the academic realm in which you reside, it’s necessary to be published by “reputable” publishing houses and “juried” journals. I fully understand that. Your work certainly meets (and exceeds) those standards, so I think you have nothing to worry about!

      1. “Ready” is such a relative term for us writers, isn’t it? I have a second draft of a book that was finished years ago… but I’ve never had the week away from distractions to polish it enough to submit. Working on editing some public domain titles (written by civil war chaplains) for release as ebooks/POD. Probably accomplish that in 2013. How’s that for settling a reasonable deadline for myself?

  7. Pingback: Delving Into Dreams of Publication | District of Calamity

  8. Pingback: C.S. Lewis and the Oddities of Editors « Mere Inkling

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