*Originally written for and posted in the ANWA Quarterly Newsletter*
Being a writer means baring your soul. For some, it’s their entire soul, and for others, it means revealing a tiny piece of a larger puzzle. This can make you feel vulnerable and raw.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it? We let ourselves bleed because we have a truth to share and explore. We bleed to better understand ourselves, our experiences, and the world around us. We bleed because we write. Or maybe we write because we bleed.
The simple act of sharing your writing is opening yourself up to judgement, criticism, praise, or to simply be ignored. It can be painful. It can be soul-crushing. But you know what else it is? Worth it.
Opening yourself up to failure and ridicule is a lovely and painful way to become a better writer. Don’t let your fears or insecurities hold you back from doing what you’re meant to do.
I attended a query letter webinar recently, and I decided to submit mine for a live critique. I knew it needed help, but I didn’t know how to move forward. I needed it to be ripped apart so I could put it back together. There’s always that hope that they’ll tell you it’s perfect. But let’s get real; that didn’t happen.
The presenter pointed out the things that didn’t work, and the attendees all chimed in about what they didn’t like. My face burned, my cheeks reddened, and I had a hard time breathing, but I was taking vigorous notes. It was embarrassing. It was a little humiliating, but it was exactly what I needed to take my query letter to the next level. If I didn’t open myself up to this experience and opportunity, I would be running on that hamster wheel, not knowing what to do next.
But the one experience that has forever changed me was the agent/editor live panel at the 2017 ANWA Conference. Weeks before, I decided on a whim to submit my first page to be read aloud and critiqued. Normally, I would never do something like that. In that moment, I decided that if I ever wanted to achieve my writing goals, I had to start putting myself out there. I had to be willing to be hurt and bleed a little.
When the live panel began, I completely forgot that I submitted my first page. I was sitting blissfully in the audience until the lady next to me mentioned that the presenter was nervous she wouldn’t read the pieces correctly. She explained that ten writers submitted their work, and then it hit me. I was one of those writers.
I thought about flagging down the presenter and snatching my paper. I wondered how I could’ve ever let myself be so foolish. What had I been thinking?
It was too late. I hoped they would run out of time before she got to mine. That didn’t happen. As she read my first page, my insides felt like they would spontaneously combust. I wanted to leave the country, change my identity, and never come back.
Then as soon as it began, it was over. The panel members gave me some constructive feedback, and the comments were glowing. So was I. After that class, a member of the panel requested that the writer of that piece come get his card and requested the full manuscript. Cloud nine had never felt so delightful.
I sent my manuscript, and I waited months and months and months (Did I mentioned months?). They recently declined. It did not end in a contract. It didn’t even end in feedback other than the no. But because I put myself out there, it made me stronger, no matter how weak I felt in the beginning and when I received the rejection. The entire experience reminded me that I am a writer, that I have ideas and stories to share. It reminded me that I am capable.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
That is the writer’s journey. Don’t be afraid to propel yourself off a writing cliff. How else will you know what you’re made of?
November went by in a blur.
No, wait. That's a lie.
November was a painful trek over thorny and headache-inducing terrain. My feet are bloodied and my body and mind are broken.
But you know what? I have a first draft of a novel. Worth it.
Now that I'm in blissful December, I feel like I can breath and finally focus on things I've been neglecting all last month (like working out and housework for starters).
December 1st -- this is what freedom feels like, and it feels marvelous.
We're only a few days into December, and I'm trying to re-find myself. There's something about NaNoWriMo that helps you hyper-focus on writing that book. Because of that, other things have to fall by the wayside. Otherwise, you'd never finish the book.
I'm currently trying to get out of the habit of skipping my workout so I can free up more time. I power through the morning, trying to get all my grading done because that's what I've been doing for the last month. By the time I realize that I can slow down again and enjoy parts of my day, it's a bit late and I have other deadlines to hit (like getting my twin girls in bed on time!).
Before November, I would sit down to my meals and read a book as I ate. It was some of my favorite times of the day. In order to find enough time to write my novel, I had to cut that out. Instead, as I ate, I worked.
I actually sat down today for the first time in over a month and read my book for ten minutes while I ate lunch. I was instantly more relaxed and happy. I had forgotten it felt like that. Boy, I missed that.
I even did a little knitting today. Watch out, world!
Remembering that I'm Still a Freelance Writer
During November, I had two articles get accepted to two different publications. I was excited but overwhelmed because of everything on my plate. It didn't take them long to send back edits, which I didn't have time to touch if I was going to hit my goal of 50,000 words.
So, I put it off.
Now that it's December, I can finally get around to those edits and finally feel the full excitement of getting those articles published in a few months.
Reclaiming the Night
Before the chaos of NaNoWriMo, I spent the few hours between my daughters' bedtime and mine working on freelancing articles and querying a novel to agents. As you can probably guess, I had to give that up and devote that time to novel writing.
I love that I'm able to get back to that habit. It feels good to continue making progress on those fronts.
So, what about you? How was your NaNoWriMo journey, and how does December feel?
In my last blog post I mentioned a few online classes I teach through Rio Salado College, and now I get to add to the list!
Later this month, I will begin teaching ENG106 - Basic Writing - for Brigham Young University-Idaho, and I couldn't be more excited! I think it will help me develop stronger teaching muscles with experience from a new class and teaching for a new college. Plus, Brigham Young University - Idaho is where I went to school for my undergrad, so I love that it has come full circle.
So, if you're looking for another online writing class to take, I'd love to have you in one of my classes!
This week, I took the time to participate in a free webinar all about starting and growing a successful blog. I saw an ad for it on Facebook, and I thought, Why not? It's free!
Let's just say I was not disappointed. It's actually a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to/is currently writing a blog. No matter what your blog topic, this free webinar gives you actionable items to grow your reach meaningfully.
Out of respect for Jeff Goins' business, I won't go into details about everything I learned, but I will give you a bit of a vague synopsis. Goins goes through three major steps to creating a successful blog. He also talks about the 5 blogging personalities, and it was interesting to try to figure out where I fit in.
What I liked most about this webinar is Goins' honesty. He doesn't try to hide that he will pitch his full class. He's upfront about it, and I appreciate that. After the hour-and-a-half webinar, I feel better equipped to start growing my blog and reaching the right audience.
Here's one of my favorite quotes he shared. After all, everyone has something valuable to share.
"What's obvious to you is amazing to others."
If you have some time to spare or you can free up some time, this is a webinar worth watching and participating in. You'll walk away with a little bit of hope and the motivation to start working hard to achieve your goals.
If you've done this webinar, let me know what you thought! I'd love to compare notes (and, yes, I took 2 1/2 pages of notes).
You can sign up here: https://goinswriter.clickfunnels.com/webinar-registration
Perfecting your book pitch can be hard. In fact, I know I have a lot to learn myself. If my current book pitch didn't need to be improved, I'd have more agents asking to read my full manuscript. And that simply hasn't been the case.
Today I stumbled upon this free webinar all about perfecting your book pitch. And the best part? it's free.
I signed up, and I can't wait until April 7th. Will you join, too? If it helps us do a better job pitching our books, isn't it worth it?
You can sign up here: http://www.spreecast.com/events/the-art-of-the-book-pitch
I'm an adjunct creative writing professor and freelance writer, but I dream of being a published novelist. This is my journey.