Many years ago I attended a writing workshop where we were asked, "Would you still write even if none of your work ever got published?"
I didn't even have to think about the answer - it was "Yes!"
Thing is, I didn't always feel this way. In fact, I had this great plan that I would first work in publishing to get to know the business. Makes perfect sense, right? I would go onto work for three major publishing houses on both sides of the Atlantic. I finished my first novel at 25, it took me 4 years to write it. In retrospect, it was everything a first novel should be: naive, lacking in depth and slightly pretentious in its lack of experience. It was rejected by every agent and I couldn't even get an editor to read it because publishing is a numbers game. It's a business and that is the hardest lesson for any writer to learn. I stopped writing during my years working in publishing and had pretty much given up any hope of ever getting published.
Don't get me wrong, I still wrote little snippets here and there but nothing major. I had no belief it would ever come to anything and couldn't even think of calling myself a writer because often the follow up question would be "Who are you published by?" People immediately lose interest in the conversation when you are not published, or published independently because we live in a world that relies on these markers for validity. I started to feel jaded by my time in publishing until about 2012 when major changes in my life meant undergoing a full evaluation of where I was headed.
I started taking writing classes online and got my first freelance writing gig. I learned to silence the judgmental critical voice from my years in publishing that said "this will never sell" or "no one wants to read this" and focused on writing the story I wanted to write. On these writing courses, I shared with complete strangers, unapologetically queer writing, and it was accepted with no judgement.
Sometimes as writers, we forget that it is often the market that puts us in competition. The majority of the writing community is very supportive with little room for pretentiousness. We look out for one another, and truth is, there is room for all of us to work. Gather up 100 writers and you will have 100 different stories and journeys. It's a beautiful thing when you think about it.
10 years on, I prefer to call myself a queer writer/ storyteller as opposed to a writer/ storyteller who is queer. The reason being is that I am proud to write about queer experiences and situations. I like the idea that somewhere out there, a queer kid can pick up my work and see themselves represented. I like the fact that many of my readers who aren't queer have had their minds expanded by reading my stories. It has become an essential part of my identity to stand up and be counted, to let others know that it is vital we continue to share our stories and experiences as queer people.
When it comes down to it, my desire to tell and write our stories will always motivate me to put pen to paper, so I don't think about where it will end but rather who will pick it up and read it.
John Lugo-Trebble is a Bronx born writer based in Cornwall. He is the author of Lu’s Outing and The Deadbeat Club; part of The Everywhere Series. His work has been published in Litro, Jonathan, Ruby, Queer Writing For A Brave New World and others. He is currently working on the third instalment, These Are Days. He lives in a barn with his husband David and their three cats.