The Silent Gift

Every kind of work has it’s inherent traps—doctors can begin to see patients as broken machines rather than living organisms; lawyers can forget that winning an argument isn’t actually an end worthy of any means; teachers can come to see children as widgets and not individuals. For writers, the threat of rejection – from agents, publishers, reviewers, readers – can lure one into feeling powerless. After all, so much of your livelihood is dependant on so many other people liking what you have written. I also believe that everyone chooses their line of work as much for the inherent traps as the inherent joys. That is, we all want to be free, and somewhere in all of us we know exactly what it is we need and wish to be free of. So a lawyer might choose to practice law precisely because he wishes to be free of the idea that he must be right to be happy. A doctor might choose medicine because she fears we are nothing but a ticking time bomb of disease and atrophy.

And writers might choose to write in part because they wish to understand where their actual power lies. Do not believe for a moment you are only writing because you like to tell stories. You are no different than the characters you create. In the best stories, no one ever does anything for only one reason, and you will always be more layered than Hamlet, Madam Bovary, and Jay Gatsby put together.

There is not a more unoriginal thought in the world than the belief that other people are responsible for your happiness. This is the democracy of helplessness. Sometimes it’s the government, sometimes it’s your husband, sometimes it’s a publisher. This is a belief that spans generations, color, nationality, class, and religion. No matter how much money you have someone can rob you; no matter how high your walls, bullets can still kill you.

The silent gift that publishing – not merely writing – offers is the opportunity to dispel this nightmare. Perhaps you have already dispelled this somewhere else in your life, or perhaps the belief simply hasn’t followed you into the world of writing and publishing. But if like so many writers the question of, “How can I be happy when other people control my future?” haunts you some sleepless nights, understand that the moment the question arises is not a threat but a portal. To cross it safely is to see that you came here to this place, to this desk, to answer it once and for all and claim back that which you gave away long ago.

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