They say you should write what you know. That’s easy for them to say, since they live in complete anonymity. We can’t exactly hold them accountable if they are wrong.
When you’re like me and know a very little bit about a lot of things that most people care nothing about, this is useless advice. When I set about trying to find that one subject upon which I have enough expertise to write, the results were dismal. I am moderately proficient in driving a car, making a pot of coffee and grilling a ham and cheese sandwich (yum.) Somehow, none of these topics seemed of interest enough to share with anyone over the age of sixteen.
Then it struck me, the one thing that I’ve been doing all my life and could share with the world. For nearly 40 years, I’ve practiced the art of not being published.
Perhaps to some this seems an easy feat. Billions of people on this planet have managed to go unpublished. But to write as much as I do and so expertly avoid publication must be an unrivaled talent.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will admit that I have allowed some license in my interpretation of publication. I do not count inclusion in scholarly journals while a graduate student nor magazine articles for which I received no payment. Nor do I figure monthly columns in a local newspaper as publication.
No, by publication, I mean that dream of all aspiring writers—the novel, the short story, the book of poetry, the nonfiction. It is the publication that is the ultimate affirmation of the creative project I have labored hours to birth. It is that vulnerable piece of myself that I release to the inspection of the world.
As a service to all other writers who recognize the risks of this kind of publication, I commit myself to the weekly task of offering my own personal tips on how not to get published. At the end of one year, at my 40th birthday, I pledge to have offered 52 original ideas for the shy and retreating writer. In the process, perhaps I shall find a way to undermine my own expertise.
Here’s to a year’s journey and the lesson of a lifetime!