If you could travel to the future and know with certainty that you would never achieve success with your creative work, would you keep going?
I’m celebrating being in print for the first time. I won third prize in the 2012 International Rubery Book Award Short Story Competition and my story, ‘The End of Hope’, has been published in an anthology. After having no independent recognition for my stories for years, two prizes came at once. First, I won fourth prize in the National Association of Writer’s Groups 2012 Open Short Story Competition. For that, I received a certificate, but the fact that one of my stories had won something was far more valuable to me than a physical prize. The Rubery award came less than a month later, when I received a mysterious parcel containing a small cheque and a glass trophy. Again, I was more excited at having won a prize than what it might be. But the chance to see my work in print and know that someone might read it was what thrilled me most.
I’d thought ‘The End of Hope’ was a good story when I wrote it, but when I read it again in the book, strangely, it seemed better than I remembered. I had to wonder, did it seem better because I just hadn’t read it for a while, or because someone had actually put it into print. It had won a prize and been published, so it had to be good, didn’t it? And if this is true, does this mean my work is good only when someone else says so?
Writing a blog has been interesting for me, because initially I was sending my writing into the world without any guarantee that it was good, or that anyone would read it. As those of you who were with me from the beginning will know, my first post, The courage to press the button, was about having the courage to do just that. And it turns out that real, living people do visit my blog. They do read my posts and they press the like button or leave a comment. It’s a small number of people, but they’re people that I’ve grown to feel affection for, by virtue of us visiting one another. But it’s interesting to get that instant feedback after all those years of writing alone and not knowing what people thought. And does it mean that the posts I write that don’t get many visits or likes or comments aren’t as good as the ones that do, or is it simply that people were too busy to stop by, or that another post just happened to be of more interest to them on a particular week?
So does it matter? I wonder, if I’d been posting blogs and nobody had visited, whether I would have kept going? If I compare it to my other writing, I did that for years without any feedback and didn’t give up. I’ve shown nobody my paintings, but despite not having anyone independent tell me they’re any good, I still keep painting them. So, if I could take that trip into the future and know that I’d never win another prize, never have anything else published, would I still keep writing? I’ve been considering my answer to this question without, yet, arriving at a clear answer.
I love the process of creating, whether in words or in pictures. I love the satisfaction I get from feeling I’ve told a story well, or captured something good in paint. I tend not to write or paint with a potential audience in mind. The ideas come and I love the feeling I get bringing them to life. And yet, how much does the promise that one day someone will know and like my work contribute to my carrying on? Perhaps the real answer is in the compulsion I feel to create and the fact that I can’t imagine ever not doing so. And so, of course I’ll celebrate my successes, but know that in the true spirit of the journey of life, the value of what I’ve created is in the act of creation.
Why do you write? Whatever your creative path is, why do you do it? Is it a compulsion or a passion that you would do just for the love of it? Does it matter if you never get paid and nobody ever sees your work? I would love to know what keeps you going when feedback isn’t forthcoming and whether you feel better about your work when it’s been validated by someone else?