Cupcakes for writers
I’ll admit it: my imagination sometimes gets me in trouble.
On my way to the gym this morning, I got to hear Nancy Pearl talk about Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein on NPR. I reviewed (and LOVED) this book, and I loved that a YA novel was being discussed alongside great adult fiction. Right on the heels of the thought, “Yes! CNV so deserves this!” came wild imaginings of one of my own novels featured in a similarly prominant media source.
As much as writers talk about writing as its own reward, I think most of us dream of some kind of recognition. Success takes different forms, from fantasies of praise from a writing workshop leader to dreams of scoring an agent or a book deal. After publication, there are reviews, awards, book lists, and sales, all of which can offer a (usually brief) high for the beleagured writer. Kind of like a cupcake… it’s pleasurable, but it doesn’t really satisfy for long.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with imagining these outcomes or even doing the professional legwork (networking, promotion, etc.) sometimes required to make them possible. But I think it is crucial to keep this secondary dimension of the writing career clearly separated in our minds from the real work of writing: crafting superior stories. Without a clear division of labor and energy (preferrably with the lion’s share going to the “real” work), it’s easy for the marketing and promotion to take over, and bitterness may result when a writer realizes that effort in does not always match results when it comes to gaining recognition.
Better, I think, to choose opportunities for promotion wisely and to invest most of your energy in writing the best next novel that you can for readers that you care about. Keep that focus, and any recognition that comes along is just icing.