Wise Words for Writers: Jonathan Swift:

1667-1745, a true Irishman who once said, “better belly burst than good liquor be lost.”

Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels not as an epic fantasy – though it is that in many minds – but as social and political commentary.  With that understood, it is clear that  he was a serious man.  He espoused ideas like  “For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.

Given the Irish struggle back then against the English I have no doubt Swift knew fear.  That he went forward and published his work is to his credit.  He published, heedless of who he insulted in the process.  By comparison, I know many writers who are holding on to works and books written and stuck in drawers out of fear of what, hanging?  No, rejection.

Swift’s take on books was instructive.  He called “books, the children of the brain.”  But I am quite sure he did not mean “children” the way we understand the word these days.  So many look at their work and stories like they are their children.  They have a hard time letting them out of the nest.  They have a hard time letting go.  They fear the world will be cruel to them – but hey, at least you are not risking prison time…

Look, you and I both know there is a lot of mediocre work in print.  I have been known to send young writers to the book store to compare their work with what is on the shelf.  Hopefully, they will come away with a better sense of sentence, paragraph and chapter construction; but at the same time I hope they find works in print which are frankly no better than their own work.

You may think your own work makes the sun rise.  That is probably not a good attitude.  Swift again would have an answer.  “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

Then again, you may think your work would best be put at the bottom of a landfill.  Remember Swift again.  “Every dog must have his day.” 

So, whether you see yourself as a giant or a Lilliputian, put it out there.  So what if they say, “no thank you.”  Send it to someone else.  Write the next one.  Unless your name is Rushdie, you at least don’t have to worry about threats to your life…

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