“How many people in this room do you think will ever get published? Zero?”
It's an interesting question because it forced my appreciation for realistic, objective predictions to confront my subjective hopes.
“Well, I plan on at least one,” I responded. Which I thought to be pretty clever; at least clever enough to put in my blog.
However, I definitely understood what she was seeing, thinking, and feeling. There were maybe 100 people in that room, all there, ostensibly, to learn how to get published. And there were even more people at the other concurrent sessions. But realistically, we're all not going to get successfully published. I even caught myself deciding which ones had a chance as I looked at them: are they wearing a fedora? If they're not already published, they're not going to get published; the fedora is a post-publication hat. Are they not taking notes? Nottachance. Do they look younger than me? Then they've got to be too inexperienced, amirite?
These silent categorizations of mine show a couple things: firstly, that I'd probably make for an awful agent or acquisitions editor, and secondly, that I worry way too much about other people's chances. I suppose that publication is a competition, but not to that degree.
Additionally, if I decide that most people who come to these cheap writing conferences have practically no chance at actually making it, that they're deluding themselves, where does that put me? Does being cynical and critical of others raise my own outlook in any way?
I think this lady's speculation, as well as my own, were instinctual. We've created visions in our minds of accomplishing our goals and dreams, and in this narrative, we're special and solitary. When we're suddenly just one more member of a huge blob of people, all of whom have simply copied our dream, we don't feel as special anymore. We're part of a deluded herd—-or at least, that's the creeping fear.
It's not useful at all to think this way. Publication is not a lottery, no matter what anyone may say. There's no spectrum of skill in lottery participants. And I don't like when people refer to the “chances” of publication. Granted, there is a lot in this process that you can't control, at all. But the amount you can control—-you know, the actual writing-—is such a deep, complex task, we have no room to complain about our chances. As aspiring writers, we already have so much we can do.
And as writers, isn't that So Much We Can Do the stuff we actually want to do: the writing?
I can't know why everybody else went to LTUE. And I certainly can't control whether any of them get successfully published.
But I can write better. So I'm just going to do that.