As an aspiring author there are times when it feels as though you’re sitting on a bench in a school yard with your peers watching as the cool kids stand in front of everyone and pick teams for a game of hoops. You sit patiently with your hands in your lap, knowing that you’re all but a sure thing for an early pick. Everyone knows that you can play with the best of them. Sure there are people on the bench who can steal or block better than you, some can even hit a three pointer over a defender better than you can. But you’re consistent; you work hard, and are a solid all round performer who on any given day can showcase a stellar effort of skill, and most importantly, determination.
The cool kids start picking teams, you’re not their first choice but that’s alright. You don’t mind if someone else nabs the coveted number one pick, as long as you are eventually recognised for your talents. But the picks keep coming and the decent players all take sides and you suddenly find yourself seated on the bench with a bunch of ballers that aren’t fit to step on the same court as you. Ok you think. Here it comes, there’s no way that I won’t be chosen next. All that hard work you’ve put in honing your skills are about to be rewarded. The next pick comes, but it’s not you. It’s one of the fucking desperados sitting beside you; a guy that you know you can run rings around on a bad day. The move blindsides you. What the fuck just happened? What could possibly compel someone to bypass you when you are clearly the most deserving? Then the picks keep rolling and suddenly you’re sitting alone staring up at a team you really deserved to be a part of wondering what the hell went wrong.
Writing is often a harrowingly lonely process that is seldom filled with the kind of human interaction that our species so feverishly craves. As an aspiring author you spend hours honing your crafts, pouring through novels or text books, devouring poems, films, music and manuscripts as though watching the playoff performances of your opponents. You admire and you aspire, but at the same time a yearning to better them at their own game fuels a hunger inside of you that sees pens scrawl in frantic cursive across notebook pages or fingers tap relentlessly against keys. You learn everything there is to learn, you find faults in your craft through your constant examination, and work harder at perfecting what you do until you know that if you were given the shot, given the opportunity to enter your own playoff game, you’d blitz the competition and leave behind a legacy that will outlive you.
But still you find yourself stuck on that fucking bench. It seems like no matter what those cool kids calling the shots just won’t put you in the starting line-up. You’re the best damn writer there is and some fucking shmuck in a suit whose job it is to make or break an artist won’t take a gamble on you because there’s something different about you. There’s an unfamiliar element to your game that he fears to throw his support behind no matter how much his gut tells him that you’ll succeed. Your writing is different, brutal, unpolished, offensive, or not marketable. That’s not to say that it’s not good, but it just doesn’t fit inside the preconceived idea of what he is after. So instead of choosing you for his team and giving you the opportunity to run those assists or hit those deep three pointers, he chooses a safer option with less talent. Publishers and the cool kids are often terrified of the unpredictable or the truly unique, so they ridicule or overlook, passing up the opportunity to inspire greatness.
In this dilemma of the aspiring writer/baller lies a rather pressing question. Do I sell out and play it safe? Do I create a manuscript or a set play that lacks all real creativity and is devoid of any of the intricacies that make me who I am in order to be pulled off of the bench and into the starting line up? Or do I continue to be myself. Do I make the plays or the manuscripts that the team and the publishing industry don’t necessarily want, but that they truly need and deserve?
During my lifespan as an aspiring writer I have met many others just like me vying for the same ultimate dream of seeing their work in print. And in my time I’ve noticed that some of the greatest writers that I have met have been the ones most ridiculed or ignored by their peers. Oftentimes these men and women create pieces that are so beautifully unique that many fail to comprehend just how incredible they actually are, and although the author truly deserves to find recognition for what they have created they ultimately fail where others with lesser talent but larger lungs succeed.
I used to get upset when this happened. I’d kick and scream and tear my fucking hair out that someone so undeserving could be given an opportunity when another so talented could be left begging. But lately I’ve been thinking of the publishing industry in a different light. Maybe it’s not like a game of hoops at all. Maybe instead this whole crazy industry is more like a flowerbed. The cool kids are actually gardeners and the reason that they are picking other author’s over me (or anyone else truly deserving of success) is that they need to line the bed with a nice thick layer of shit before anything of substance has a chance to grow.