Tell me, does this situation sound familiar?
You're standing alone in the corner of a room, surrounded by friendly, laughing faces. You observe, not so much minding the solitude but wishing you could somehow be included in the conversation.
Joy! Someone turns to you.
"Hey, do you still write?"
You lean forward eagerly. "Yes, I do!"
"How's it going?"
"Oh, it's going pretty well. I've been writing quite a bit lately—"
...And there's nothing more to talk about. The person, bored, disinterested, or just plain awkward, drops the conversation, and you stand back in your corner in silence, wondering just why you haven't published anything.
In the world's eye, a writer is not successful until having published their work. A newspaper or magazine is a stepping stone, a blog is cute, and a novel is the holy grail — until it becomes old news and the people wonder what comes next.
Lately I've found myself in many similar conversations. People become so dreamy-eyed when you say the word, "writer," but if you mention you've only had a short story published in a college journal or are not working on publishing anything currently, the dreaminess just...sinks. I can't say for sure what exactly goes through their minds, but in my mind, it goes like this:
"Great. There's that look. 'Oh, so much for that.' 'Haha, that's cute.' 'Hm, maybe she's lazy.' 'Oh, so she's not a real writer.'"
Well, I take umbrage.
(Not this Umbridge.)
First, I did not start writing in hopes of publication. My first story of a sheriff and his ten-gallon hat that I wrote in elementary school will never see the light of day.
Writing for publication stunts your creativity. You're constantly wondering what others will think, how they will react, what they would want, why they might be offended, what they expect...rather than letting your characters take you on a journey for the sheer pleasure in unraveling a story you didn't even know was inside you.
"Follow the story, do not try to control it. A story is a living work in progress. Get that first line, paragraph, or page down and allow the story to evolve in the writing and lead you wherever it takes you." --Arnold Zable
Second...I am proud of the short story I've had published in a college journal. It was an accomplishment for me, and a big step; I let my parents read it, my friends, my extended family. I don't let people read my work as I'm writing, and to have my writing public terrified for me. But the response I got from my little 'network' was nothing but encouraging.
Publication is fun, but with my writing, I'm looking for that personal accomplishment. Satisfaction. Courage. I'm looking for joy, inspiration, a desire to please God in all I do. I don't need to have anything published. When I'm working on those first few drafts, I'm writing for me.
In your writing...be stupid. Be funny. Be sad, or wistful, or visionary if that's who you are. Don't just be what society wants you to be. Explore your own creativity and accept it as a part of you. Let your voice shine through your words, and you will write something startling and breathtaking...and then let it sit on your shelf in a pretty binder for a while.
Go on, then. Write.