If you’re a writer, you have probably faced the terror of the “Submit” button. So many stories or poems sit in a computer file or a desk drawer because their author is too terrified to let anyone see the product of their hard work and creativity. After writing for many years, I understand these fears. However, I’m here to help you push against some of the common thoughts that prevent writers from putting themselves out there.
(PC: Jon Hill)
My writing is private. It’s for my eyes only.
You don’t know who out there needs your story. Whether poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, stories have the power to speak to the human experience and create connections. I’ve needed books to laugh, to cry, and to rant with about how ridiculous life is. Readers can find themselves in characters. They can point to a particular line and say, “That’s me! I feel that way all the time!” I’m so grateful for the writers who have brought both joy and pain into compelling writing, allowing me to have a cathartic experience while appreciating a story well told. Writers, we need you! Let us join hands with you.
If the subject you write about is deeply personal/emotional, I understand the hesitation. I kept a journal documenting my struggles with chronic anxiety that I didn’t share with anyone. When I incorporated the entries into my memoir for senior thesis, I felt vulnerable, but I did it anyway for the good of my story and my liberation from mental health stigma. Not saying this is for everyone, but perhaps letting go can encourage you like it encouraged me.
Rejection will confirm I’m a bad writer.
Ohhhhh boy, do I know this feeling. First, a writer is not all that you are. You are many other things, but most of all, you are a human being. And whether you get published or not does not change the fact that you enjoy writing and that’s why you do it. That’s why you should keep doing it.
When Scripps alum and children’s author Stacia Deutsch visited Scripps in 2015, she offered words of wisdom that I’ve found helpful as a writer: “Yes, you might get rejected, but you’ll have no chance if you don’t submit anything.”
It’s true that not every publication that you submit to will publish your work. Sometimes that’s less of a commentary on the quality of your writing but more on whether your piece fits with their publications’ niche or how many other people have turned in excellent work. Other times, your piece needs some more tweaking, and that happens! Ernest Hemingway said the first draft is anything is sh*t. Based on my experience, however, even the second, third, or fourth draft often feel pretty sh*tty too. That’s the writing process. If I discover a way to write a perfect draft on the first try, I will be sure to share it with you all. Meanwhile, we’ll have to keep chugging away.
I don’t have time to get something ready for publication.
Whatever time I spend refining, submitting, and stressing about a piece becomes worthwhile on the few occasions I do see my name in print. It’s fun pointing your name out to your friends. Not only that, but if you’re a writer looking to publish a book in the future or establish a professional writing career, it’s helpful (if not also necessary) to have publications to list on your resume. When budgeting your schedule, keep your writing time in mind rather than assume you’ll “get to it eventually.” Even just setting one hour out of a your weekend can do wonders for flexing your writing muscle or putting your writing out there. If you really want to share your work, give yourself the chance to do that.
Letting other people read your writing can feel scary, but you shouldn’t miss out on opportunities just because they’re too risky. You’ll never know what will happen if you don’t try. So go on, give it a go!