A thoughtful essay, by Christopher Pierznik, on every hard-working writer’s greatest fear. Writers of scholarly books published by university presses–books that are often brilliant–face this same set of circumstances with their work. I think also of Anthony Trollope who failed with several books (according to Trollope himself) before writing one that sold well. And I think of painter Vincent Van Gogh, who sold nothing, and was nothing, in the world’s eyes, before his death. That the world took no notice of Van Gogh’s art before he passed away is indeed a sad fact, but that is a risk every artist must take. All of us wish to be recognized, and compensated at a level commensurate with the value we place upon our work; and most of us want to write works so powerful that the world will not let them go.
But the fate of our works, once we send them out into that world, is not in our hands. Although it has become trite to say it, I will say it anyway: to write a book, craft a poem, post a blog entry–to create anything under the spellbinding power of words–is to put a message in a bottle and cast it into the ocean. The bottle may find its way to receptive ears on a well-populated island, or it may, no matter how well-written the message, remain forever adrift. Whichever of those two fates our works may endure is not a reflection upon those of us who write. It is a reflection upon the time and tides of human taste, and their pull upon the boundless, impersonal sea of mortal thought.