I just finished reading Brave New World for the billionth time. It always holds some special meaning for me. Every time I “revisit” the novel, I find that it has a whole new perspective — maybe because society changes and I change in between readings. This time it has had a dramatic effect on how I view writing and publishing.
“Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.” Aldous Huxley
What we once thought of as science fiction is slowly becoming our reality. It is indeed a Brave New World for writers and publishers alike.
Brave: In order to write and put yourself out there, you have to be brave. Many may write, but few have the perseverance to see it through. What looks like an “overnight sensation” is really not. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that many of us never see.
JK Rowling may be one of the most famous current examples. From an early age, JK Rowling had an ambition to be a writer. However the confidence to do so was lacking. After a fierce divorce (and supposedly being thrown out of the house with her infant daughter), Rowling made her way to Edinburgh. When the train was delayed for over four hours, her imagination went into overtime. But she didn’t even have a pen: “To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one.”
But even after the loss of her mother and having to live as a single mother on state benefits, ideas continued to flow. She wrote – on scraps of paper, napkins, even airsick bags. Often she would go to Edinburgh cafes to work on the book while her child had a nap.
Eventually, she finished her first copy of the Philosopher’s Stone, and sent it off to various agents. She found an agent who spent over a year trying to get a publisher. It was rejected by 12 major publishing houses.
However, eventually, a small publisher, Bloomsbury agreed to take the book on. She was advised to continue her training as a teacher because she was told writers of children’s books don’t get very well paid. She changed her name and sold the first book for a pittance compared to what Scholastic would later pay. But she was brave and persisted. So what we see as any overnight success was actually the result of being brave enough to balk the system.
“I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”
- K. Rowling