On Authors Who Don’t Publish
They’re making a movie about J.D. Salinger – a man known for publishing The Catcher in the Rye, and then nothing else. Or, more excitingly, a man known for writing The Catcher In the Rye, a few short stories, and then reportedly a treasure-trove of unpublished works that could possibly be just as good as The Catcher in the Rye. Imagine if we could read them! Why didn’t he ever publish anything of it?
That is what the movie is about. Apparently the idea that anyone could write something, and then never publish it, is mind-boggling to a lot of people.
Publication is the lofty goal of aspiring writers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Having a goal gives you something to work for, and a reason to improve. But if publication isn’t what drives you, and you write just because you like writing, that shouldn’t be mind-boggling.
Apparently J.D. Salinger once said, “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing … I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
I don’t find that at all crazy. The joy of writing is enough in itself to keep you writing. And I’m sure there are millions of unpublished authors out there who’d agree – they do write out of the sheer joy of it.
Well, I do publish, and I know there is a unique thrill in reaching one more reader than you did before. But I also write things that I hope won’t be published (like my diary, or ridiculous unbelievable story ideas). I write them because it’s fun.
There are other reasons J.D. Salinger might’ve not published. It might’ve been too personal. It might’ve been too controversial, or too bleak, or too different from The Catcher in the Rye. He might’ve felt he could never live up to The Catcher in the Rye’s success. Or he might never have managed to arrange the words in a way that he felt actually got across the message he wanted to get across.
I would never presume to say I know what he was thinking. I would only say that – I can think of a million reasons myself for why an author wouldn’t want to publish. None of these reasons are enough to base a mystery-thriller style movie around (do see the trailer, it is rather strange).
But, oh well. They need to sell tickets to the thing, right?