Real After All

A friend of mine once insisted that people who who publish by other means than with a nationally recognized publisher aren’t really writers. His publisher is nationally recognized, and he is, by this definition, a real writer, and very successful. Small presses with limited distribution and small print runs are suspect. Vanity publishing isn’t really publishing, and doesn’t count by anybody’s definition. It is self-publishing which made my friend angry.

I can understand that. There is so much mediocre, poor, bad, and garbage writing out there, writing which has not been vetted by a professional editor, that it can be difficult to find something worth reading. There is, of course, bad writing and storytelling put out by traditional publishers too.

But think think about it. If traditional sales by traditional means are the only definition of being a writer, or poet, or artist, so many who are recognized today aren’t, “really,” what we think they are.

Emily Dickinson can hardly be thought a poet, as fewer than a dozen of her more than 1,800 poems, were published in her lifetime. We don’t think of her as being just a recluse and dilettante. Franz Kafka certainly couldn’t be considered a story writer, per se, since he instructed his literary executor to destroy all his work — which, fortunately, he didn’t do. Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life, so you couldn’t really call him a painter. 

Which is silly, because they really are those things, aren’t they. And so are the rest of us.