Friday, December 9, 2011

A Dream, A Love, A Need

In order for music to live it must be sung. - Irving Berlin

I came across this quote from my favorite songwriter and it stopped me, as so many of Berlin's words do. He spoke them after composing Alexander's Ragtime Band which became a sensation for the most uncomplicated reason I can think of: people liked to sing it. So they did. The lyrics very deliberately and skillfully invited it. And that level of participation gave enourmous life to a song.

I've been struggling a bit lately, wondering about this intense desire to be published. It's a dream I've had since I was a child and I cling to it and pursue it because I trust the vision of that little girl more than I believe in the wishes of the person I've become.

I take a lot of joy in writing. I remember having an honest discussion with my tennis coach in high school. I really enjoyed playing tennis. But she asked me if I loved it and I could not commit to that. Only because nothing, absolutely nothing, in my mind and heart could live up to my love of writing. I have measured many things in my life against that intensity of feeling. And besides my friends and family, besides Tyler, there is truly, for honest-to-goodness real, nothing I love more.

So I've wondered, lately, why that isn't enough for me. Why the need for such validation? An agent, a book deal, a publishing credit in a magazine, a journal, a newspaper page. Should I not be content to sit at a desk and do what I love best?

I have very seriously considered writing only for myself. Not because of fear, not to protect myself from rejection but because I question the need for that validation. What is the opinion of an editor, an industry, a public? I should not need their acceptance or attention.

All this to say that I seriously question what is at the heart of wanting to be published, at the heart, even, of clicking 'Publish Post' when I finish writing these words. I wonder about a childhood dream. A true love. A silly, but real, need.

I also wonder about Berlin's words. About that participation. Because it is so very simple and true. A song is nothing if no one sings it. A story has no life if it isn't read.


  1. I don't think it's about money or fame, but you want to share what you've created with people. For a writer the best way to do that is to get published.

  2. Some of my favorite stories are those I've written because the idea will not leave me alone, but when I let other people read them, they don't "get" them. It makes me re-think them, sometimes. I try to re-write them so that everyone can understand the point. But then I find that... I don't care. *I* wrote the story *I* wanted to write, and that is enough for me.

    That being said, I too have dreamed of being published since I was really young. And I still think it would be amazing. But I go back and forth on it pretty much daily.

  3. You are right -- stories live because people read them. Characters breathe, because readers are anxiously wanting to know what happens to them. You create -- and you want to share your creation. I think we all know that feeling.

    I also dreamed of being published ever since I was a small child. It didn't happen for a long time for me -- (and my first published works were reproducible workbooks for teachers -- cool, but not exactly what I had in mind).

    Publishing a novel didn't happen for me until I was over 40. Not saying everyone has to wait that long. Just saying Don't. Ever. Give. Up.

  4. And there is a lot to be said about being paid for and supporting yourself by doing something that you love vs something that you have to do.

  5. I didn't publish until late either, and that was okay. Everyone is on their own schedule. There is no race. It happens when it is meant to happen. And judging from the quality of what you put out here every day, you are ready.

  6. Brilliant post.

    My thoughts are that writing is a means of sharing, so it is natural to be out there; to be published. However, you write because you write and one day you will understand within yourself why this is.

    I have always written and had the dream of being published ahead of me; a good carrot! I am older now and still hope for an agent, a publisher, but we are being published, now, here, in blogland. I love to read your posts and am seriously waiting for the day when I can say, "Melissa. I knew her in blogland. I knew she could. I knew she would."

    Don't give up on your dream, but know that your words are out there already. Here's to Next Year!!

  7. I have great admiration for authors and itched to write stories, so I dreamed of being published. Even when I was struggling to make my dream come true, I wrote out of sheer enjoyment (and because my characters wouldn't leave me alone).

    Your quote has me wondering about the many unpublished manuscripts out there, unpublished for various reasons, and what I might be missing out on.

  8. A song is not a song until you sing it
    A bell is not a bell until you ring it
    Love wasn't put in the heart to stay
    Love isn't love until you give it away