I have an acquaintance who is a published author whom I met through a small writer's group that she started with another local author. In this group, the members, about six of us, would share excerpts from our work by reading aloud with the intention of having the others critique the writing. Nightmare. Absolute nightmare for someone like me. Hell. I don't know why I went. Yes I do, I wanted to learn. I did learn, but I always politely declined when asked to show my work, which was actually kind of rude since I was the only one unwilling to lay my guts out on the table to be picked at by some very kind, knowledgeable buzzards. Because it wasn't fair to critique their work when I wouldn't show mine I only gave encouragement when it was my turn to give an opinion and couldn't help countering everyone else's criticism of the work of the person in the hot seat by pointing out what I liked about the piece they had shared.
All this came on the cusp of getting reacquainted with a childhood friend who writes and asked me to read one of her books to critique it. Then a friend of hers who writes asked me to read something she was working on and suddenly I found myself, a person who has always written with the idea that no living person, not even my husband would ever see anything I had written, surrounded by writers and in this little writing community that I couldn't have found if I'd tried. I believe in fate, destiny, serendipity...and luck...so I decided to go with the flow and accept what life had given me as inspiration.
I'm not the best writer, and that's not modesty or humility speaking, it's true. But my husband once said that if I can't stop the itching in my fingers to get down on paper what I have to say or quickly jot down dreams of people I don't even know and snatches of dialogue between them from the dream that sound like a story, then I'm probably a writer. He's right. If I need to write, whether my writing is any good or not, then I am a writer. I am a writer. I have so much trouble saying that, but I am a writer.
Another thing that I find inspiring is a talk that I had nearly twenty years ago with my college writing instructor. She simply told me that I needed to try to get published because my short stories were well-written. I believed her. I did. It meant a lot to me. I started writing a novel soon after. I started another a little over a year ago, and then a third in the spring. I still lack the confidence to show my work even though I have since begun blogging.
A couple of years ago I wrote a short story about my grandfather's sailboat and what it meant to our family and after a year and a half of messing with it, got up the gumption to send it to two editors. The second wanted to publish it, but asked for pictures to go with the story. I sat on it and sat on it. Even at the time I knew the reason behind the delay was that I was still afraid to show my work. She published it a couple of months later without telling me, saying it was a touching story for their Christmas edition. It was to be a birthday gift for my dad, but I still had trouble telling him about it. Finally I did and he showed the family who responded with such encouragement that I knew I needed to get over my confidence problem.
I started blogging. This sounds strange, but Facebook, sharing my thoughts and ideas in daily posts, broke the ground for me to begin blogging. Blogging to me, is a glorified Facebook status post, I can handle that just fine, but still quiver a little just before I publish a blog post and 9 out of 10 times I change something after I read the published version. I am an obsessive "fixer".
So I've been blogging for nine months, putting "my guts out there", as I call writing of any kind, for people to see. It hasn't always gone smoothly. I have deleted things I've written and many posts disappear before I "publish" them, but I like having that control too. I also started writing for one of those web content sites to grow in writing.
So with all of this working, I was stunned to hear what came out of my mouth the other day when I met with one of my writer friends. She asked, "Are you writing?". I replied while having trouble making eye contact, "No...just blogging...". I did stammer and sort of apologetically add that I do content writing, but emphasized that it doesn't pay very much and they will let anyone write for those sites.
Did I tell her I have three novels working and that I obsess over them in my spare time, which isn't really spare time? No. Did I tell her I've had something published? Of course not. Because I don't consider myself to be a real writer yet. I have a lot of work to do. Yes, I need to hone my grammar and punctuation skills, work on character development, flow, and I have a real problem with dialogue, but the biggest thorn in my side is still in the self-esteem department. Lesson learned.