Ignorance or Publishing Bliss

I prefer to use the term ignorance according to its basic meaning–as opposed to a pejorative adjective. Unless it is a case of militant ignorance, I define ignorance as simply lacking knowledge or awareness of a particular concept, subject, or experience.

For example, as a child, I believed anything I could rinse off with clean water (and yes, I believed in clean water then), was okay to eat. If I dropped an apple slice on the floor (or out in the yard for that matter), I would rinse it off and eat it. My mother was an inherently tidy woman, yet she often said, “A little dirt never hurt anyone.”

I believed that, just as I trusted the other things she told me:

Things often work out for the best.
The universe helps those who help themselves.
Nature in the raw is seldom mild.
Necessity is the mother of invention.

So, until I became older and detected the possible flaws in those statements, I happily dusted off dropped food and popped it into my mouth. It never occurred to me to be wary of touching a public door handle, to panic if someone coughed within 20 feet of me, or to avoid salad bars with inadequate shields. Ignorant, but blissful.

The first time I viewed a close-up photo of a dust mite–one of the thousands that supposedly infested my bed and pillow–I was shocked and more than a little distressed. In my bed?

Since then, I’ve become aware that the media, the medical profession, and the pharmaceutical companies–basically everyone who is truly concerned, or has something to gain–blasts us with warnings. It takes a strong cup of coffee and some firm self-talk in the morning to avoid the Howard Hughes syndrome. Who isn’t a little paranoid?

But, that type of paranoia (or call it what it is–fear) also extends to the writing life. Just like I believed the things my mother told me, for years I believed hard work, good writing, original ideas, and perseverance would get a decent manuscript read, considered, and, possibly, published. I wrote diligently, believing in the inherent truth of effort and reward. Now we are being told differently. Writers are warned those principles are obsolete.

We are told by the media and, god help me, thousands of MFA program advertisements, that we can’t do it anymore. We are told that we need the connection that only a well-placed professor at a prestigious writing institution can provide. We are told if we don’t have strong social media platforms, with thousands of followers, no one will buy our books. That is, buy them assuming they are in print because we were able to breach the formidable agent/editor/publisher barrier.

We are told that publishers won’t accept a manuscript unless it is submitted by an agent; that agents are only interested in previously published authors; that neither wants our material if they don’t foresee hefty returns. We are told independent publishers are disappearing faster than snow in LA. And, of course, we are told that self-published books don’t stand a chance and will damage a writer’s reputation.

But here’s the thing. I never got sick from a little dirt. A lot of things I dreaded have turned out for the best. Necessity is most certainly the mother of invention, and helping myself has been my salvation on more than one occasion.

So, I refuse to buy into the prevailing hype. Ignorant of reality? Perhaps, but I still believe:

A dedicated writer, with good ideas and careful execution, can succeed.
Readers still want interesting books that touch on universal truths.
There are still agents, editors, and publishers who will take a chance.
Manuscripts do get read.
Writers do enjoy publishing bliss.