Emerging. There’s a word that tends to stalk writers for a long time. It always reminds me of natural selection: the idea that a writer’s emergence is less from obscurity and more from some kind of primordial soup. Like Godzilla. In 2008, I met a group of writers who were all at much the same stage of emergence as I was. In evolutionary terms, I guess we were at the reptilian stage. Since then, all eight of us have taken extremely different paths. Some of us have been published traditionally and some have chosen to go it alone. Some of us have done both. And some have opted not to engage with the industry all—yet. I would argue we have all been successful, but some of our names you’ll recognise and some you won’t. Though we all now occupy a different habitat, we’re still equals, discussing similar problems and clinging to the same love of writing that brought us together in the first place.
Our conversations reflect the same daily challenges of putting words together and the same pressures, both external and internal.
For me and I think for many writers it's not necessarily about how many copies are sold or how much money you make it's about seeing your work published.
I remember when I was writing like a maniac for years and years, always with the dream of snagging a bite from a big publisher. That was the surface motivation. But looking back I realise that the far deeper motivation was that I just enjoyed it so much.
So here’s my question: out of this group of writers, who can we say has emerged and who is still in the process?
This is where the idea of emergence, with its implied destination, begins to falter. At every career stage, a writer is still emerging from somewhere, hoping to land a better deal, a broader audience, more respect, or simply better words on the page.
For a growing number of writers, ‘emerging’ is no longer a temporary state. And that analogy with natural selection suddenly looks less silly than it did when I was referencing Godzilla. I suspect a writer’s crawl from the primordial soup of obscurity is never complete.
When I began thinking about a theme for this year’s Bookcamp unconference, emerging was taking on a whole new meaning. After all, it's not just writers that evolve. Technologies, forms, the entire industry itself adapts and changes to its environment.
We're all evolving and we're all experimenting. That's what makes the discussion so exciting.
Image courtesy of SMU Central University Libraries