A college professor of mine said that anyone can write but it takes a strong person to share.
Putting your work out there can be one of the most challenging parts of being a writer. Important as it is to hone your skills and revise your work, there comes a time for many of us when we choose to let go and face criticism, on however small a scale--by sending work to a family member or circle of friends, sharing it with a writing group or class, maybe even submitting it to an agent and perhaps eventually a larger audience. We expose something deeply personal, and open ourselves to rejection on an elemental level.
Why do we do this?
I like to consider the words my professor spoke. I was the kind of student who kept to the shadows and avoided, at all costs possible, raising my hand in class. This professor taught a course about women writers in history and the lengths they took to have their voices heard. Topics like oppression and diversity always lit a fire in me to write, but it was this professor who helped me realize how much speaking up, while a human right, is also a privilege. As a quieter person, I have to challenge myself to relearn this lesson constantly--if only to voice an opinion respectfully or even an experience. I may be quiet at times because that is my personality, but communicating what I do have to say is my responsibility to myself. Society silences us enough in different ways, and yet, in an environment that encouraged me to speak, I was silencing myself.
I struggle with this every day.
At times I truly feel incapable of speaking, when anxiety and pressure take over any motivation I have to say something, and I try to finish my words too quickly to do them justice--whatever I have to do to take the attention off me. It's one of the reasons I turn to writing, where I have time to process, where there is no pressure to get my thoughts out perfectly the first time or even the tenth time. Where it's okay to be thoughtful and slow. Of course, the same problem inevitably arises. If I want to take my professor's advice and share--if I want to be honest--I need to get up in front of the class and be seen for who I am. Too emotional, too imperfect. Too myself.
Oftentimes, I have to remind myself that the reason people write and read is to connect. To find common ground on which we look around and realize we are not alone, we are not so very different or foolish. Unusual, unique, and even strange at times perhaps, but not unrelatable and certainly not unvaluable. There is community in writing, and that is what keeps me coming back every time. In our vulnerable moments, we find our strength and we find each other.
What motivates you when you are struggling to take that next step to share a piece of work with a friend or mail that submission you've been planning for months?
In what ways do you keep yourself going strong through setbacks?