I've always told my Creative Writing students that it's entirely their decision, to try and get published or not. It's a personal one that each writer has to make on his/her own.
And lately, as I've been in the agent-query trenches once more, I've really grilled myself about this: Is it (publication) worth the pain/time/energy/money/patience? Is it?
In the end, my answer to myself is still "yes." And here's why:
Sure, I completely enjoy writing for the sake of writing -- the process of it. Absolutely. Nothing else gives me the rush that a burst of inspiration can do. Nothing. It's indescribable. And I'll (hopefully) do that for the rest of my life, fingers dancing across the keyboard, creating new characters, new dilemmas for them.
But why did I start to write in the first place, years ago? Because I was a reader first. And when I saw the power of words, when I experienced the emotions as a reader, I knew I wanted to be on the other side of the curtain, producing new worlds and experiences for a reader. I wanted to give someone else that same feeling -- of connecting to a character, of being moved by a story, of being transported to another world. So, I suppose the source, the foundation of my desire to write, was actually because of reading. Because I wanted to give someone else an experience I'd received.
Of course, by now, I'm well aware of the reality of publishing -- I've researched enough (and experienced enough) to know that publication is mostly business. It's about money and decisions and trends and rejections and....more money. And I realize that getting published won't give me nearly the same artistic/creative satisfaction that the actual writing does. But--I still have a desire to see my work in print. To come full circle and let someone else (hopefully) experience what I often do, as a reader.
I think there are good reasons and not-so-good reasons to seek publication. And in the end, we have to ask ourselves if it's worth it. In my case, at least right now, it still is.