When I first began writing seriously, it never entered my mind that it
would be a painful process. But it is.
From the very beginnings of our imaginings as writers, the first
stirrings of creativity that we feel compelled to share with the world
by transferring our thoughts to paper (or computer), we are "putting
ourselves out there" for the world to look at--and judge. Self-doubt
When you wrote your first essay in grammar school--think back--"How I
Spent My Summer Vacation"--that was the beginning. You most likely had
to stand up and read it for the class, to be snickered at by your
classmates if you hadn't had some kind of fantastic summer experience
to write about--good or bad.
Your retelling of a wonderful vacation to Disneyland could be trumped
by a classmate who’d visited relatives that lived near Billy Bob's Crocodile Farm.
Never, never could we slip into mediocrity by writing about a boring
summer of "just staying home."
Without our realizing it, this was the beginning of the rest of our
lives as writers--and the judgment of the rest of the world. By what
we wrote for those long-ago class assignments, we unwittingly took
the first steps on our journeys into the world of writing successes
to come. How our classmates reacted, even at age eight or nine, would
affect the rest of our lives in ways we didn't imagine then.
Think of it this way: Miss Smith's third grade class was our first
experience with peers who critiqued our work. And some of those peers
could be downright snide, despite Miss Smith's admonishments to mind
Kids are cruel, but so are adults. Our school years were the proving
ground for obstacles we face in the adult world in many areas, but did
you ever think of your third-grade classmates as your first panel of
Just as we longed for acceptance then, we wish for it now. Those
of us who are writers hope to be embraced by a fan base of some
size--even if it's small.
Miss Smith was the next hurdle, representing an elevated level of
criticism. She gave you "the grade" for your paper--evaluating not
only the grammar and punctuation, but the content and creativity.
Dealing with teachers and curriculum in school is much like dealing
with a literary agent and the governing “rules of writing” in our adult
lives. The comparison is striking.
We have to "make the grade" to land an agent. But, like teachers, not
all agents are alike. Some tend to give more advice, push harder for
the sale, or spend more time networking. Ultimately, your agent
is your personal "gatekeeper," making the sale for your work--or not.
Miss Smith in third grade, along with countless others like her,
represent the first broker for your writing. Did you pass or fail?
Were you creative? Did you meet your word count?
Much of the outcome depends on you. Have you been "tough enough"
through the years? How do you handle the rejection that comes as an
inevitable, integral part of a writer's life? Have you ever thought
that you might have started your adult writing career sooner had you
had a bit of encouragement in those early years?
Realize that you are here, at last, and having made it this far, you
are on the road to success. It might not come tomorrow, or next week,
but it is out there, waiting. Much of our success as writers depends
on luck, or "being in the right place at the right time." Having that
teacher, mentor or friend at some point who gave us a small piece of
encouragement is sometimes what can "make or break" us.
But learning to be tough and stay constant, to keep from being
disillusioned and disheartened, and to be our own source of inner
comfort and strength during this journey is the key to success.
Join me next time when we take a look at having faith in
your story, your ideas, your talents--and what to do if doubt sets in
once you've begun to write.
Until then, remember, even if you haven't sold anything yet,
you've written it. And that's a success story in itself.
Completing a manuscript of any kind means you were tough enough to
"tell it" and it's only a matter of time now until you sell it!