So, a story. Once upon a time I was in the middle of an interview, and this question came up:
What advice do you have for aspiring authors who are still too nervous to share their work?
Now, because it was a phone interview, and being recorded, I did my best to respond with an encouraging message.
But on the inside, I kind of felt like this:
Here’s the thing. If writing makes you happy, do it. Seriously. But there’s a difference between writing and writing for publication. The difference is the “publication” part. And every time I get asked this question (I’m going to start a tally, because it keeps happening), my soul makes that confused puppy face.
Here’s a hard truth: in order to be a published author, you have to be okay with the idea of being published. Not just published actually, but read, judged, critiqued, found wanting, and occasionally drawn and quartered (upside: you also get to be enjoyed, savored, shared, and remembered).
So when I hear that someone is too nervous to share their work, my brain translates that to: NOT READY. If you can’t stomach the idea of being judged, you are not ready for publication.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Readiness is two-fold.
Ready Type 1: Skill.
Ready Type 2: Psychological status.
So the kind of readiness I’m referring to here is the second kind. It is in no way a judgment of talent, only a comment on where your head is. And hand in hand with that NOT READY diagnosis comes are harder one: DOESN’T WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH.
Now, wow, that does seem harsh, but this is what I mean: in order to survive emotionally, you have to want this SO BADLY. You have to want it enough that your want outweighs your fear. Because we’re all afraid. I’ve yet to meet someone who’s not. The difference is that our level of want–not only want to be published, but want to be read, to be shared, to be a part of this community, you choose–OUTWEIGHS THE FEAR. If you’re not there yet, don’t lose hope, you can get there, and probably will. This is NOT a born-ready kind of thing. Some people are. Some people like any form of attention. Some people have an easier time shelving the fear. But for most, we reach that place by degrees.
Here’s the good news. No, the GREAT news. The way we get there is by exposure to rejection, by acclimating to judgement, and this is an industry that offers you rejection and judgement at EVERY STAGE. And it’s there to help you. It’s not there to make you feel bad, but to see if you’re ready.
By making rejection and judgement such an integral part of the early stage, you can test yourself along the way, and you can become accustomed and eventually become more comfortable–it never gets cozy–with putting your work out there.
But be honest with yourself. Figure out why you write, why you want to, and what’s holding you back. Gauge your level of want. And know that it’s meant to be hard. It’s meant to be scary. And if you’re not there yet, if that fear is still just a little bigger than that want, keep going.