True Story

Here is one story: Editors would much rather buy books by published writers than unpublished writers. The unpublished writer has no readership, no track record. If that book fails, the editor’s publisher will ask, “What were you thinking?” Better to work with a proven writer. After all, if you were hiring a contractor, would you choose one who just opened his business, or one who’d been at it for twenty years? Here’s another story: Editors love publishing books by unpublished writers. That writer has no track record working against him. How aggravating for an editor to find a book she really loves but be unable to sell it to her publisher because that writer’s last book didn’t sell through. What’s more, how exciting to discover a new talent. What a feather in an editor’s cap to be the one to discover the next J. K. Rowling or Jonathan Franzen. Careers are built on such discoveries.

If you are a published writer, you probably prefer the first story. If you are an unpublished writer, you probably prefer the second. Unfortunately, both are true. Fortunately, you get to decide which one you tell.

Storytelling can be odious in this way. So much simpler to have only one true version of a story; so much simpler not to have to choose. What if you are wrong? Best to disprove the other story, and once you have completely discredited it then you can begin telling the story you’ve wanted to tell all along.

But the other story will always be true for anyone who believes it. Why else are we writing but to make true what we choose to believe? The moment your reader cries when your heroine loses her lover – your story is true. The moment your reader cheers when your hero conquers his nemesis – your story is true. It is true because your reader believed in it enough to suffer and celebrate with it. And your reader believed in it because in the moment of creation, when thought found word, you allowed the separation between an imagined kiss and a physical kiss to dissolve, surrendering to the understanding that your life is only a story you are telling yourself.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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