I’ve been noodling on Claire’s post about the public/private sides of the writing life. We talk a lot in the Hamline community about focusing on the writing craft and writing our stories as best we can, about finding our fulfillment in the process rather than publication. That’s all good to emphasize the internal aspects of writing—the joy and satisfaction from personal growth in our own craft, hearts and minds. But writing also has an external component. It is, after all, a form of communication, which inherently implies that it is shared between a writer and an audience. For writers who want to publish their work, finding a productive intersection between the private and public writing lives is key.
Internal resources give us the stick-to-it factor needed to do the actual work of writing. But encouragement from the outside world sure can fortify us. When I’m working for months on something that I don’t know if anyone else will ever read, it feels good to get a magazine in the mail with my byline. When the plot of my current work is loosey-goosey-going-who-knows-where, it’s heartening to read at a bookstore and see children enjoy a book that has finished its journey. Good vibes don’t come just from publication—they can come from getting accepted to a workshop, or encouraging feedback from a trusted reader, or standing up and sharing at an open mic like Ron described.
We can’t all be Thoreau at Walden Pond. It’s human nature to want recognition from others, and to draw on that positive energy to fuel our work. Knowing what you need as a writer, and how to get it, is where cultivating the public life of the writer becomes important.
Public and private. Yin and yang. Everything in balance.