"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

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

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for reminding the "Self-conscious scribe" that published authors (more often than not) evolve through a process and don't simply get published because they write. I checked out your blog and must say that I love your writing style and your intent desire to develop your characters more deeply. Because I sense you're a perfectionist, I don't think you'll ever truly be content with calling your novel "polished". Let your readers make that call.

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  2. Thank you, "Anonymous". Interesting feedback.

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  3. Nice to meet you, Geralyn! Thanks for sharing about your journey; I know I can relate in many ways. Congrats on your contest success. Cheering you on for more great results!

    Thanks, Jennifer, for introducing us! :)

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  4. "Anonymous" and Karen.. Thanks so much for taking the time to read the article and then post comments. This is such an exciting journey, and I look forward to each success and rejection, to every right choice and misstep. Your input and insight are truly appreciated. And special thanks to Jennifer, again and again, for giving me this opportunity to guest post.

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  5. Jennifer Brown BanksAugust 11, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Geralyn,

    You are welcome! Don't forget to announce it to CWA peers. :-)

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  6. Excellent advice!! Yes, "putting it out there" really forces you to take your game to the next level instead of mentally hiding out in your artistic garett. In this "social media" age, you're your own best promoter, and you have to take the reins, pushing your limits creatively and pushing your words promotionally. And entering contests has been a great way to not only boost your enthusiasm, but make friends with other writers too.

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  7. Jennifer Brown BanksAugust 11, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Hi Mary,

    Welcome! Thanks for adding to the mix here.

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  8. Mary - I love the description of "mentally hiding out." I can be a master of that! Thanks for your support and comments.

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  9. "Putt it out there!" is a great thing to suggest!

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  10. Thanks, Wendy. I just checked out your blog (great name!), and I see you're a juggler, too (I have two amazing sons as well). Wishing you continued success in all the roles of your busy life!

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  11. Jennifer Brown BanksAugust 12, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Always a pleasure, Wendy. Thanks for dropping in!

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  12. I can relate to you. I've been acquiring web knowledge for years and I'm a bit nervous about writing for my intended audience. But it's going to be an incredible journey that will help me develop along the way.

    I wish you the best. :)

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  13. Hi Daquan,

    Welcome! Thanks for dropping in to say hello.

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