So often, as we write, we think about what others want from us:

  • What would our mothers want us to say – or not say?

  • What would embarrass you with your friends?

  • What sells in the current market?

  • What is an editor looking for?

  • What does your audience expect from you?

If our main goal is to get published, then we may concentrate on the last three questions (the first two questions are a whole different topic!). But most of us didn’t get into writing just to sell our work. We got into it because writing fulfills us, takes us to a place inside ourselves we can’t access any other way, and makes us examine the world around us (and inside us).

The poet William Stafford addresses this issue in his book The Australian Crawl, that “. . . the exhilaration of discovery, the variety that comes as a result of being yourself – these benefits are so important and so effective that they bring results that are truly original, more exploratory and satisfactory by far than the ‘competing-with-models’ formula.”

Following our own path instead of one prescribed by others brings more inherent rewards. This is where the muse resides – in our own experiences and perspectives.

Stafford goes on to say, “Using the tradition that comes from all your experience, rather than just from the experience established by study, enables human involvement from the beginning, a validating in terms of your own life. Top accomplishment is not by any means endangered by the recognition that your actions must spring from where you live. You accept leads that take you to unrecognized results. In the arts you must stand fast, accept the changes the moment brings.”

We worry that, if we follow our own path, our work will never be published. But authentic voices and writing always get noticed. It helps our work distinguish itself from the rest of the slush pile that fills editors’ desks. Give them something different, something alive that comes from deep inside you. Do it well and you will certainly get noticed.

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