I sat in the front office, grading papers. My colleague, Ken, walked in, the usual coffee cup in hand. "You write that Great American Novel yet?"
Ken knows all about my "other" life as a writer. In fact, he's been a great champion of the cause, since he himself dabbles in photography. Over the last several years, we've been co-conspirators in a plan to bring creativity and arts to the scientific world of the Biology Department.
"Nah," I said. "I've never had plans to do that."
I stated the truth. A long time ago, when I first put pen to paper and began writing, I never even considered that one of my stories would ever become the next Great American Novel. My intention then was to write something that somebody enjoyed. At the time, my mom read what I wrote, and she liked most of what I produced. Her approval served as an incentive to keep writing. So I did.
As I progressed in my years, I still wrote, but again, not in pursuit of the Great American Novel. Instead, I wrote for a grade, or to find release from stress, or to remember something that had happened to me, or to amuse someone else. I found satisfaction in the writing process and the physical paper that sat before me.
It didn't take me long to learn that my love of grammar and correct use of punctuation, and my yearning to make a story better, served me well in the editing world. And those feelings I got from writing--the same endorphins I manufacture when running--bubbled up during the editing process, too. I knew this 22 years ago when I became a peer editor at the University of Michigan. I knew this when friends would ask me to read and comment on their writing. I knew this when I took over the blog from Timmy years ago.
The question exists, then, what am I in pursuit of now? Since having jumped back into writing and editing, my intent is very clear to me. I'm not working for a grade, or approval from my parents. I'm writing because I want to get a story into the world and I want to put a smile on someone's face. I edit for almost that same reason: because I want to help other people bring their stories into the world so that those stories can put a smile on someone's face.
But I have to be honest, I've done a lot of thinking over the last five years or so. I've waffled as to what I want to do with my stories. Do I continue in the quest for an agent, or do I go ahead and self-publish? I really have no intention of not teaching, so a life of self-publishing would certainly fit the bill very well. But while I may not have wanted to write the Great American Novel, I have wanted one teeny tiny thing: to see my little book sitting on the library and book store shelves. And that's not going to happen if I choose to self-publish.
So where does that leave me? I'm not quite sure yet. Stay tuned.