Publish or perish.

10 Aug

In the academic world, for professors, there used to be a phrase bandied about. Publish or perish. If you didn’t publish a book as a professor, your career was over. I don’t know if that is still true for college professors, however, I do know that is what it feels like for unpublished authors.

I am an unpublished author.

I love to write. I have stories in my head that are constantly begging me to put them down on paper. I love my stories. So far, I have not found an agent who has fallen in love with them as well. But it’s just a matter of time, right?

In the mean time, I have to stay focused, keep on track and continue to write and improve my writing. Simple. Easy. Not a problem. Hah.

Publish or perish.

That is a bit what it feels like. We pour our hearts and souls into our writing. We finish a book, enter it into contests and find out that others don’t even like our story much less love it the way we do. We finally get the courage to tell our family and friends that we’ve written a book, they cheer then start to avoid the “how’s the writing going?” question after a couple years have gone by and we aren’t published. Why aren’t we published? Are we bad writers? After a while we begin to ask ourselves the same question.

Publish or perish.

I know writers who had their first book published – they’re really annoying, but I’ve still cheered them on. I know many others who have written for ten years or more before they were published, I’ve cheered them on and on. The great thing about those writers is that they did not perish. Not after the first year of being unpublished, or the fifth or the sixteenth. They somehow managed to survive in this crazy rollercoaster of an upublished author’s life and continue on until they achieved their goal, their dream.

It would be wonderful if we could all be published right now. But it is not up to us. We are at the mercy of agents, editors, publishing houses, the market and pure luck. So, we have to find a way to keep our writing career alive until we are published. Foruntately, we’ve had many, many others who have shown us that we won’t perish if we do not get published this month or even this year.

Publish or perish.

When I start to gasp, frantically sucking in air, searching desperately for that small bit of oxygen to keep myself going, and I wonder if this is it, my last hurrah – my fingers find the keyboard and the words start to flow and I know that I’m not done for yet.

What keeps you going?


Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Idaho


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10 responses to “Publish or perish.

  1. Carley Ash

    August 10, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    On the first day of class, one of my professors stated that she didn’t give any As. My internal response was, “I’ll show you.” And at the end of the semester, she gave me an A. I hope that drive will keep me going when the rejections start rolling in.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    August 10, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Very thoughtful, Meredith – catchphrases like ‘publish or perish’ impose an artificial dichotomy and, in addition to being unrealistic, are almost malicious attacks on motivation. If people aren’t so simple as an either/or, then a writer’s journey is necessarily unique. Thank you for today’s reminder.

  3. Janis McCurry

    August 10, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    I have no idea what keeps me going. Periodically, I ask myself and my friends if I should continue. I have a very full and happy life. I can fill it with other things. Why keep getting rejected year after year? Especially when there is so little you control on the road to publishing.

    And, while we’re being honest, I’m not one of those who say, “I can’t not write. I get cranky, etc.” Sorry, that’s not me. I enjoy writing stories, but trust me, if the day comes when the cons outweigh the pros, I will quit. Passion has to have joy come with it. Not just angst, frustration, and sadness.

    I’m not there yet because I still enjoy the writing process as a whole. Thanks for opening a great topic. Maybe I’m alone, but there could be others out there that think as I do.

  4. Johanna Harness

    August 10, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    What a great discussion you’ve started here!

    Feedback from readers keeps me going. Knowing my work hits the right note or elicits the right response is magic. I will go miles in a revision for one of those magical comments. If unpublished, feedback can come from beta readers or members of a critique group. You might also try your hand at short stories. is a really supportive group of writers and anyone is welcome to join. (They started with the #fridayflash hashtag on twitter.)

    • Meredith Conner

      August 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM

      I hear that a lot from published authors Johanna. The feedback – whether from readers, an editor or an agent really keeps a writer motivated! My husband – who is not a reader – constantly surprises me with his comments on my writing.

  5. Meredith Conner

    August 10, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Carly – I sent a reply and don’t see it anywhere, hmmm. Still, good for you on the A.

    I agree Liz – it can be a malicious attack on one’s motivation. Writing is uniquely personal, we all do it for our own reasons. And Janis, I am probably more like you with my writing. I do get cranky if several days go by and I haven’t written for one reason or another, but sometimes I also have to take a day and walk away. Now that I’ve started this process of putting my stories down on paper, I don’t know if I could ever quit, I find great personal satisfaction in it, still it would be nice to get paid for it 🙂

  6. Peggy Staggs

    August 10, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    Over low these many years I’ve seen lots of writers come and go. I remember one who said she joined the romance group because she wanted to write something easy. She didn’t last six months. What most people don’t understand is writing is one part luck, one part talent, and one part perseverance. It’s a kind of get good, hang in there, and wait for your manuscript to hit the right person, on the day, in the right market. Simple.

  7. Clarissa Southwick

    August 10, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Years ago, I wrote only for my own pleasure. I finally felt I needed to publish just to justify the time I spent writing. When I think about ‘quitting’, it’s always in those terms. Not to quit writing altogether–which I can’t even imagine– but simply to stop seeking publication. But I have to write. I’d go crazy if I didn’t.

  8. Mary Vine

    August 10, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    I go with what Peggy said about part talent, luck, and perseverance. After writing three manuscripts, I finally figured out I should write about my exercusions in NE Oregon, and got three magazine articles published. That helped make my query letter look a little better. So, as Johanna said sometimes writing something else helps, too. Also, I took five years off from writing when I went through a divorce and didn’t get back at it until I’d remarried. I really can’t see that happening now until my health fades. Thanks for sharing what so many feel, Meredith.

  9. lynn mapp

    August 10, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    It is a difficult road we travel.


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