Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Mule and the Writer

Sometimes the world takes its pruning sheers and cuts you right back down to the roots. According to Roger, the gardening expert on Ask This Old House, such drastic action may be necessary to help, or force, a plant to grow properly. I never much liked the idea. Poor plant, ouch! Well, this week the plant is me, and the pruning process feels like being kicked in the gut by a mule.

I've spent the better, or worse, part of ten years as well as many hundreds of dollars on books and classes and domain name registration, beating my brains raw learning HTML, and later XHTML, and CSS and practically memorizing the W3C's web accessibility guidelines. All this fuss and bother had only one purpose; namely, to create the best possible web site to serve as a showcase for my writing. Even once I finally gave up on the web site as too difficult to maintain, I applied my CSS skills to customizing the Blogger blog spots where I proudly posted my fiction and poetry.

Ignorance truly is bliss.

Someone who has perhaps not been writing as long as I have but who is more savvy told me yesterday evening a fact which I had somehow failed to divine for all these years. If a story or poem is freely accessible on the Web, a professional editor won't buy it.

That was the mule kick.

Stunned and reeling, I checked with a very successful writer I know via his blog. He confirmed and gave a reasonable explanation for the policy.

I see the sense of it now. But, that doesn't ease the pain in my gut. I've always been so careful. I've always made it a point to behave in a professional manner to the best of my ability. And yet I missed something so obvious. Not only that, but I wasted valuable time and money on web development skills I don't need. Chagrinned doesn't begin to cover my current mood. Murderous is more like it, or rather suicidal.

All is not lost. Blogger has provisions to make a blog private. I have implemented these provisions on my writing spots. This should keep them ungooglible and yet allow friends and fellow writing group members to view the work, which was really the only purpose of the blogs to begin with. But there's more to it than this debacle.

My lapse in judgment, or whatever you want to call it, regarding "publication" on the Web has shaken me to the core. If I could make such a fundamental mistake about writing, how do I know that any of my decisions or choices is sound? How can I trust my own judgment about anything? The fellow who unleashed the mule kick is very offhand about it. "Mistakes happen." But he hasn't had to watch ten years of his life come tumbling down around him, revealed as totally meaningless and worthless. Perhaps it's a lesson I needed, but it's certainly a shock I'll take a while to recover from.