When I started writing I told myself, and everyone around me, that it was for my own enjoyment. I lied. I write because I think it is fun, yes, but I edit because I want to be read. If I just wrote for me, I wouldn’t edit. I’d approach my writing as as a teenager: churn out a story, feel pleased, put it in a folder and move on. But I don’t. I get an idea, plan it, write it, read it, edit it, read it again, ask for feedback and edit some more. The stories that I complete are good enough that I dare send them to publishers for their consideration.
Sending out, sharing my writing, is scary. Clicking the Send button on a submission still gives me a nervous butterflies-in-tummy feeling.
For the last 15 years I’ve worked as a technical writer and copywriter. I’ve received a lot of criticism, ranging from constructive to counterproductive. Dealing with feedback from a wide range of people, from managers and clients, people who can write and people who can’t, has taught me to deal with the fact that not everyone is going to like what I write or how I write it. Of course, when you write instructions, personal taste isn’t that much of an issue but when you write fiction, personal taste is everything. Once the grammar, spelling and punctuation is correct (or at least consistent) and the story follows it’s own internal logic, nothing stands between the reader and the story. They can engage with your characters, environments and plots, unless there’s something in your writing that turns them off.
It is OK if not all readers like my stories. They aren’t aimed at all readers. But I want some readers to like my stories and it’s the fear that they won’t that makes me nervous when I send something out. I’m learning to invest myself in my stories differently. Previously, my writing was me until the moment I handed it over to someone else to read. Then the writing was rubbish. Now, a story is something I wrote and if someone doesn’t like it, I can live with that. If they tell me why they didn’t like it, I’ll even be grateful. It’s taken time, but I now only get nervous when I submit to publishers. Sending things to friends, family or writing groups for fun or feedback no longer makes me want to hide behind the sofa.
It turns out that sharing my writing is a little bit like writing itself: it gets easier with practice.