Friday, April 23, 2010
Today Rachelle Gardener asks, Why Do People Want To Be Published? She asks why "so many" people want this, and theorizes about the primal urge to be heard and the possibly-more-recent desire for celebrity...
Wait a minute. Why wouldn't we want to be published?
Now, I realize that there are a wide variety of motivations that underlie the thousands upon thousands of query letters sent daily to literary agents. And I'm quite sure some people are planning to be celebrities with the next Twilight-level breakout novel, but I'm also sure that those people are delusional. But this doesn't mean that the desire for publication is such an odd and wondrous thing that it must be explained.
I went to law school to be a lawyer, not just so that I could better understand Supreme Court decisions in the privacy of my own home. And before that, I wanted to be on television and in movies because acting was my job. I didn't give a crap about celebrity (indeed, I saw enough celebrity around me to view it as high-risk and potentially damaging rather than fun and exciting).
I helped run the lighting in an off-Broadway theater for a period of time in high school (we had a theater troupe that worked as stagehands in exchange for being able to perform in the location later on), and I got paid the same as the adult actors: $5 per show. Five dollars per show in 1990. No money for rehearsals. That's NOTHING. I don't think a single one of them wanted to be on Broadway for the "celebrity." Those actors loved acting in a way that I never did, were willing to make sacrifices that I was not.
They loved the art form, and the only reason they would ever want to be on Broadway would be for the joy of the art: (1) because a Broadway show would mean more money to pay the bills so they could spend more time acting instead of doing the day job; (2) because a Broadway show would mean more exposure, which would mean more acting gigs, which means, again, less need for a day job; (3) because there are some freaking amazing shows on Broadway, and who wouldn't want to act in the best plays available; (4) because it would mean they were Broadway-worthy, among the best in their field.
They wouldn't want to be lousy actors on Broadway, just to be able to say that's where they performed. They wanted to do the hard work and be extremely talented, and so of course then they would want the financial rewards and recognition that come with being superb at one's craft.
I think that writers who take writing seriously want publication like those actors wanted Broadway. It's the prize at the end of a long road, in an art form that these people are passionate about. It's not about celebrity, it's not even necessarily about being heard or seen. It's about doing a job you love, and doing it well enough that people want you to keep doing it, and will pay for you to keep doing it, so that you can do it some more.
What do you think?