'People who have what they want are fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it.'
Ogden Nash never did an email submission only to realise in the nanosecond after pressing send that he'd typed 'Dera Ms Agent...', but his words reflect the experience of many a modern unpublished writer.
Every famous or not-so-famous author has been through the uncertainty or downright agony of being unpublished. But, for some, publication results in a sudden change of tune. It's like someone who desperately wants a baby and then gives birth to one and starts complaining that it cries a lot and actually needs quite a bit of attention. Getting published can have the same effect.
After years striving at their ambition, honing their craft, coping with frustration, crying over rejections, picking themselves up and somehow grasping the determination to keep going, a writer gets published and soon they're saying:
Being published isn't the be-all and end-all, darling!
It doesn't suddenly sort your life out!
We published authors still have problems, don't you know!
It was OK for them to work hard towards their goal, but if you work towards yours, you must be a deluded wannabe who thinks a book deal will make your bank account groan with a million quid and your letterbox collapse with invitations to soirées with JKR. You sad little person, you – sitting there in your crappy job and dreaming of being famous enough not to have a care in the world. If only you knew the difficulty of being a published author!
To be fair, authors are usually just saying these things because they're knackered and worried like everyone else, and because there's a British inclination to play down success and not to look as though they're showing off.
This is understandable. It's still bloody annoying.
Serious unpublished writers know darned well that life will go on pretty much the same but with a book with their name on it on the shelf. This does not make publication something that isn't worth aiming for. All right, the well-meaning author might only be expressing concern that you're making yourself unhappy over the submissions/rejections process, but this is none of their business.
You can give up trying to get published any time you like. No one will care. But if you want to go for it, it will require a bit of obsession and probably a lot of angst. If you're determined to carry on, what's the big deal to anyone else?
I've never read the slushpile so perhaps I'm naïve about the level of delusion and crapness out there, but I think if you’ve got the wherewithal to write something and send it out on submission, and to be with-it enough to engage with blogs like this one, chances are you are not dur-brained enough to think that a book deal will bring you permanent health and happiness, resurrect your dead hamster and stem the BP oil spill. Serious ‘aspiring’ writers are grown up enough to know that what they're aiming for is just publication, not a key to eternal sparkly youth.
Being published is actually pretty cool, and I say that as someone who is not exactly hitting the big time... or even the slightly-bigger-than-absolutely-minuscule time. Being published is several million times better than trying to get published. It's worth aiming for. So, if publication is your goal, I say: keep aiming, and politely ignore people - even the well-meaning ones - who try to put you off.