Decades ago, I was a member of several writing critique groups, including a small group of 4-5 people. One member was a woman about 35, thin, with lank, dirty blond hair. She would sit on the couch in our host’s living room, shake her head slowly from side to side, stare blankly into the middle distance, and say, “You can’t get published these days. You just can’t get published these days.” Now, call me perplexed. This was long before the internet. There were newsstands overflowing with magazines and newspapers. Bookstores, both independent and chain, were thriving. Countless corporations, small businesses, non-profits and government agencies had newsletters, either in house or for the public. Somebody was cranking out all that material. Unless there was a factory in Delaware that had the concession to write everything printed in the U.S., many people obviously were getting published. And what about the couple of us in the group who already had been published, in however a small way? In fact, a couple of my early publications were book reviews in the newsletter put out the by the PR department where I worked. I counted them as published credits, for sure.
But it was beyond my confrontational comfort zone to ask this woman the more pointed question: If she really believed what she was saying, why was she there? Why did she bother to come, week after week, to a meeting whose only purpose was to write with the aim of publishing? Of course, the real reason behind her pronouncement was more likely to make an excuse for why she herself had never managed to get something in print. But why lay her trip on the rest of us?
I write often about attitudes. It’s because I believe they are a crucial part of creating a contented, successful life, however you define it. I believe one’s attitude is even more important for us writers. We have chosen a tough path. Sure, most of us get down about rejections, lack of progress, or days when we don’t have an idea in our heads. But I will never entertain the idea that it’s not possible to have a satisfying writing life. I will never think, “why bother?” Or listen to folks who do.