“It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
I share my writing all the time, thanks to this blog. In the early days, shortly after I launched Writing Forward, I would sometimes wake up in a panic, wondering whether I’d made a fool of myself on my new blog. Had I said something stupid? Misspelled a word? Misplaced a comma? A few times, I did make a fool of myself. I’ve published posts with typos in the headlines, and once I spelled a famous author’s name wrong–that appeared in a headline, too.
Putting your work out there is a risk, and it can be scary.
Here’s the thing: you’re going to make a fool of yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes, a piece you thought was brilliant will turn out to be a dud. Other times, a piece you thought was dull will catch fire and go viral. You never know what’s going to happen because you cannot objectively judge your own work. That’s why you have to put it out there.
I wrote some fiction back in college and had to get up and read my short stories in front of a whole classroom full of people. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. And when I received their feedback, I appreciated it and applied it to make my work stronger. It’s been years since I showed anyone my fiction, mostly because I hadn’t developed any fiction projects that I intended to publish. But over the past few months, I’ve been working on a science-fiction novel that I do intend to publish (hopefully by the end of the year).
Last week, an opportunity arose to share a bit of my work. John Ward, who is one of the hosts of the Self Publishing Roundtable, started an action on Google+ inviting writers to post a scene with the hashtag #SaturdayScenes. I was hesitant, but then I realized that if I never put it out there, I’ll never know whether people like it. I picked a scene from my work-in-progress and read through it several times to polish it before I posted it. Then I waited to see how people would respond.
And you know what? By the end of the day, nobody had commented on my scene, but guess what? It had received twenty-nine plus-ones and two shares. Not bad. Not bad at all for putting fiction out there for the first time in ages. (By the way, you can read my scene here, if you want).
The point is that as a writer, sometimes you’re going to have to take risks and put yourself out there, even when you’re scared. And if you blow it, if it blows up in your face, you pick up the pieces, get back to writing, and then put it out there again. And again. And again.
Now go write, and then share it with someone.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. We can say the same thing about writing: It’s better to write badly than to write nothing at all.
Jodi Picoult’s quote summarizes this idea in a clear, concise manner. Writing is a craft, not a science. There will be days when everything you write ends up in the recycle bin. There will be days when you have to rewrite every single word. And on rare days, every word you type will be golden.
The good news is that the more you write, the better your writing will become. You know what they say about practice, right?
I have written hundreds of thousands of words–probably millions of words–that had to be thrown away. And I’ve written millions more that I’ve had to edit and rewrite. Every word, even the throwaways and especially the edits–is worth it.
How much time do you spend on editing? Do you force yourself to write through the bad days? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
– Gloria Steinem
I feel the same way as Ms. Steinem, although I only realized it recently.
It was late and I was tired. Exhausted, really. I should have been asleep. My face needed washing, my teeth needed brushing. I still needed to brew my nightly cup of chamomile tea. If not sleeping or getting ready for bed, I should have been reviewing the proof copy of my next book, which was sitting on my desk with a red pen sticking out of it.
Instead, I sat there writing for almost two hours, taking a break halfway through to brew that cup of tea. It was late when I finally crawled into bed, about three a.m.
For those two hours, the world disappeared. Nothing mattered, there were no distractions, and I was completely inside a story of my own making. I forgot about how tired I was and didn’t care about washing my face or brushing my teeth. The proof of my next book didn’t even cross my mind. I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing: writing.
Has that ever happened to you? When you’re writing, do you get lost in your work? Do you ever feel distracted?
“If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.” – Natalie Goldberg
Writing Good Books
We are all influenced by the world around us. Natalie Goldberg’s quote on reading good books is a reminder that whatever we take in will affect whatever we put out.
I believe this is a truth that goes beyond writing. When we surround ourselves with positive, supportive people, we in turn become more positive and supportive, fostering a nurturing environment that is conductive to achieving our fullest potential–as writers and as human beings.
Whenever I revisit this quote, I am reminded that the stories I take in though film, television, and of course, books, have a strong impact on what I write. The quality and content of my work is subject to these influences. That doesn’t mean I never read books that are mediocre. I learn from those too. But I try to spend more time studying the greats, with the hope that some of their brilliance will rub off on my own writing.
What do you read? When you choose entertainment, do you consider how it will affect your work? Do you actively look for inspiration and influences in the stories you see in film, television, and writing?
Quote: Google Books