So you’ve gone ahead and written the thing. The pivotal decision looms: is it time to share your efforts with the world? Well, certainly, we’d like to answer. After all, we’ve typed and marked our way through several drafts, we’ve scrutinized every participle and period, we’ve hollered at tear-stained pages. It’d be cruel to leave this work sitting in our personal pile after all that effort, no? Of course, of course–no one appreciates wasted hours. But aspirant writers must face a hard truth: it is the proper fate of some pieces to remain sentenced to a life among private notes, leud doodles, and scattered papers, no matter how ambitious a future we might have envisaged for them. Our work is finished. The pen rests. It is time for our pronouncement. The destiny of these pages, publicaiton or purgatory pile, hangs on one humble question: Why would anyone read this?
A difficult question to answer. We have our reasons, after all, for picking up the pen in the first place. We’ve hastily scratched an impassioned response to current events, we’ve made a marvelous discovery, we’ve grown as a person. A writer is never lacking in urges to write, even if she may face the occasional blockage. Thus, it’s easy to forbear the question and take our own motivation as justification. Of course we want to share our work; it’s done! We’ve finished it! The idea has come off well! But often we write, because the need to do so is an urgent one, before assessing whether our writing is sufficiently interesting to others.
The answer to this question is frequently a disappointing no.
But all is not for naught. Regardless of whether you’ve written something others will read, you’ve at least completed the exercise. Chances are it taught you something, perhaps no major lessons, but some valuable schooling nonetheless. So the answer is no. So someone else has said everything you thought already, and, by god, has done it better. This doesn’t reduce every effort to solve those same problems to a futile reinvention of well-oiled and fine-tuned wheels. The wheel-smith’s depth of understanding increases as he tackles old problems, and writing your way through difficulties fine way to learn, even if it turns out you didn’t have much to say. But I should hardly need to convince you of this, the schoolroom essay is based on this principle. I supposse I don’t follow my own advice.
Besides, there’s hope yet. That vast, unruly field known as difference of opinion has great clout in the realm of writing. Every man is both incredibly unoriginal and incredibly unique, and it’s unlikely that he shares the perspective of another down to every particular. Take pride in those disgraced and dismal failures sentenced to an eternity in the slush pile–you never know, they may find fans in future climates. The practice and continued dedication to this scribbler’s craft are important, and doubtless, even if your piece attains no further glory than the trash bin, the waning, desk-bound, bleary-eyed, hours you spent together remain invaluable. Or at least that’s what you should write on the farewell card.