The Lamp and the Mirror
Writers usually start out as lamps.
They have ideas, they have images, they have emotions, and they want to shine these things out into the world, sometimes frantically, sometimes hopelessly, trying to reach as many readers as they can.
They write and they write and they write and then they submit and submit and submit — and, if they self-publish, they spam and they spam and they spam, desperately beaming their work as far and as wide as possible.
What comes back? Largely wave after wave of rejection. Their signals are not being heard, their messages are bouncing, their ideas, images, emotions, all encapsulated in words, are hitting barriers. Rather than being welcomed, understood, embraced, their work is radiating out into the world but having no apparent effect.
What does it mean when a work is accepted instead of rejected?
It means that to one degree or another the work has been understood. Instead of ricocheting from an unyielding barrier, or disappearing into a void, the response indicates that something else has occurred: the writer’s words have been grasped, their messages conveyed, their intentions comprehended, at least to some degree. Instead of colliding with a wall, the work has encountered a prism, if you like — an opportunity for its light to shine further, to reach more readers.
Successful authors learn about mirrors.
The mirror reflects other lights; it shows those who look into it both what they want to see and perhaps what they weren’t expecting to see beyond that; it reflects Truth in some way, shape or form. It reveals Truth. A great work of art has the qualities of a mirror: the viewer, reader or audience see in it something of themselves, something that they put there, usually unconsciously. It invites contribution, participation.
Being a mirror means knowing your readers, understanding your audience, grasping what your market needs.
What’s the answer? Should a writer be a lamp or a mirror?
The answer is 'Be both'.
Lamps radiate ideas, images, emotions, and publication acts as a prism, sending the light out across the world; but mirrors reflect truths, give feedback, show the looker what they both want and perhaps don’t want but need to see.
Successful authors learn a big secret: the light that shines from the lamp is the same light that others are radiating. It is possible to be both the lamp and the mirror — you can write from your heart even more strongly and authentically when you learn that you’re writing from others’ hearts too.