Last night at the San Diego State University celebration for the MFA program, I was fortunate to hear a lovely poet named Kathleen Shumate read a few selections from her upcoming book (I'll report back with the title and date of release -- something about Oz!). Apart from the fact that her poems were amusing and filled with joy, she also began her reading by giving a simple message to the fellow writers in attendance:
"Stop waiting. Don't wait."
She was referring to the writing and publication process. So often, we aspiring writers hear the message, "Don't give up." As true as this message is, it has an implicit pessimism to a certain extent. It is telling us to expect the road ahead to be challenging and perhaps even daunting. While this may be true, it is no way to begin a journey!
Rather, "Don't wait" is filled with far more agency. It is not saying you will or will not get published. There is no guarantee in this statement. It simply seems to speak to the one universal truth in writing: you absolutely will never get published if you don't take the steps to do so. In that light, WRITE, REVISE, and FINISH your work. Then worry about publishing.
I don't know, maybe the messages aren't all that different -- or maybe they are. But "don't wait" sure sounds a lot more appealing than "put on your raincoat."
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