Thursday, August 11, 2011
Overcome Your Fear-Put it Out There!
GUEST POST BY GERALYN MAGRADY
When the president of the Chicago Writers Association, Randy Richardson, asked if he could use my “Thanks CWA” email on the testimonial page of the organization’s website, I was delighted. But what was more exciting, was the title he gave me: Writer, Blogger, CWA member.
Really? It was exhilarating to see my name followed by such titles, to know that anyone who visited the website would see them, too, and suddenly the fear of sharing my words and works was replaced with a desire to write well, write more often, and write with a newfound purpose.
Okay, so I’m not a professional scribe. I’m an English teacher by profession, and honestly, I never thought of myself as anything more than a person who loved writing, that is, until I joined the Chicago Writers Association and learned a crucial lesson: YOU HAVE TO PUT IT OUT THERE!
For years I’d been researching my ancestry as well as reading everything associated with Chicago history. It didn’t take long before these two past-times merged with a passion for storytelling, and the result turned into a 50,000+ word manuscript of historical fiction, but I knew it wasn’t polished.
If this piece was ever going to feel complete, I needed to do something I had never done... share it. Surprising myself, I did, in fact, share it; I sent off the manuscript to a publisher who specialized in Chicago history, and I waited for the critique.
While waiting, I came across two interesting contests. I scanned the submission guidelines and immediately generated ideas for both, but I was nervous because I never entered contests before. I liked the essay I created for the “My Kind of Town” competition sponsored by the CWA. It was a welcomed change to write about childhood memories, rather than the characters to whom I’d been dedicated for so long. The result: third place!
Then there was the Trazzler.com contest where my usual long-winded prose needed to be honed to a 150-word travel blurb. I was a semi-finalist! I entered a dialogue-only (no place) and poetry contest (still waiting to hear). I realized right away that contests were a good way to practice and improve specific writing skills.
Once I got past the initial anxiety of holding my breath while clicking “send,” I understood that, no matter the outcome, I was putting my work out there while becoming a better, stronger writer. However, in order to discipline myself to write more often, I applied what I’d learned through an online group discussion, the big “put it out there” concept... I created a blog.
Setting up a blog was a piece of cake. Within an hour’s time I was already authoring my first posts at www.therolesofwriting.blogspot.com, but it took me a couple of weeks before I felt confident enough to make the blog public. Sure, I was getting used to sharing by entering contests, but I still hadn’t gotten any feedback about the manuscript (my REAL writing, I told myself), and I was still anxious about what others might think.
My Facebook friends were the only people to which I publicized, and three months / 800+ views later, I’m finally accepting my role as a writer/blogger. I now have an outlet for my writing, so it’s easier to develop the discipline of writing on a regular basis. Readers tell me they connect with my topics; they’ve been touched, humored, educated.
When the publisher returned my manuscript with critical feedback, I quickly posted my personal response to the rejection, without fear! Most recently, I even opened up to public critiquing of my first revisions for the novel-in-progress. I posted a rough opening and encouraged comments. After receiving some constructive criticism, I edited accordingly, reposted the revision, and went through this process a second time.
The permanent post is “Sneak Peek: Revision #2.” An interactive introduction is what I’m calling it, and I’m thrilled with the outcome.
It astounds me, really, to think back to less than a year ago, when I found it impossible to share my work.
The bottom line is that you have to share, put it out there. I may not be getting paid to write (yet), but the rewards have been immense as I journey along this written path.
Shared by: Geralyn Magrady (Writer, Blogger, CWA Member)
Image Andrea Brill