False Fulfillment

The more familiar I become in my new city, the more I get asked: what does it mean?

“What do you mean, what does it mean?” I ask, with as much confusion as I can muster. Because a lot of things mean a lot of things to me. What does that mean to them?

“You know,” they’ll reply with a smile, “what does it mean to be a published writer, especially since you’re so.. young?”

With a mixture of horror and relief, I can exhale again. “That’s a good question…” One that I love to be asked and yet dread to answer.

Now, I know my reply to a similar question: “What does it mean to be a writer?” Because that answer is why I wake up in the morning.

Being a writer means that I get to wear a pair of glasses and see the world through an observantly careful view. It means that I get to listen and eavesdrop on conversations in public without feeling guilty. It means that I can justify staying home all day with my laptop perched in one hand and four cups of coffee in the other. Being a writer means that I can take every bad thing; every regret, harsh word, dirty look, betrayal, and every heartbreak, and turn it into something viciously beautiful on the page. Being a writer is a gift.

But being a published writer? Now that’s a bit of a privileged affliction.

I’ve heard it thousands of times, and after a full year since the publication of my first book “Undefined”, I’ve experienced it more than ever: getting your work published will not fulfill everything you’ve hoped and dreamed of. Writer Anne Lamott puts it best:

“Creative success is something you have to recover from. It will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. Creative success is also amazing, it is a miracle to get your work published. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you- will fill the Swiss-cheesey holes inside you. It can’t. It won’t.”

Those damn Swiss-cheesey holes are relevant in more than just creative work, keep in mind. In every career, in every human, we just long for some form of accomplishment, some praise for our many hours, empty mugs, and crumpled drafts. Publication is not the magic solution, nor will it ever be. Not even the New-York Times list will provide an artist with the gratification and justification they seek.

And that’s okay.

So for me, to answer the question “What does it mean to be a published writer at age 18” means that I am no where near where I want to go. My hopes and dreams haven’t been magically fulfilled; I didn’t sellout my first two books and can happily retire by the age of 20. Being published so young doesn’t mean that I’ve peaked either- sorry to break it to those who hold a grudge against me (I appreciate your readership of my blog though!)

Like I mentioned before, it is a privileged affliction: I am incredibly lucky, blessed, and fortunate to have two works already dotted with an ISBN number and sold on Amazon. But having the pressure of publication always creeping around over my shoulder when I sit down to write can be stressful some days.

And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My goal is to improve with each publication, because my Swiss-Cheesy holes will one day be filled with the freedom of simply writing.

Confidently yours,

Madeleine Rheinheimer

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