For the first time ever, I did it. I know it may not be a big deal to many, but for the first time since I can remember, I let someone read my writing.
I think the first thing I did right was use a fresh piece. It was a short story off of an idea that came to me a few days ago. Using a new idea alleviated some of the pressure that I've felt with pieces I've worked on for a long time; the pieces I've been developing over years, or even months, hold a lot more weight for me because they're ideas I really want to see work out. If someone were to tell me they weren't good I would feel highly discouraged. But with a fresh piece I was able to see it as an experiment and was more open to constructive criticism.
I also took Stephen King's advice and found an ideal reader I could trust. One of the worst things for me, in any situation, is receiving false support: I don't want anyone to tell me something I do is good just to be nice. If someone tells me something I've done is good, I want them to mean it. Having someone I'm close to, that I can trust, read my piece gave me peace of mind that I would receive honest feedback, good or bad. Mr. King uses his wife as an ideal reader for the same reasons.
I was really surprised after my reader read my piece: his review was glowing. I had only proofread it once, but decided to hand it over before I could change my mind. He laughed and smiled at all the right places and told me that he was immersed in the world I created and it left him only wanting more. This was exactly what I'd hoped to hear. In fact, he only offered one item of criticism: that I post it elsewhere for other people to read.
I have the piece still drafted out and ready to go. Maybe it's my nerves hitting me again and holding me back from actually posting it. Maybe I need to pull the trigger and just do it despite my reservations. This experience has taught me, however, that I need to appreciate the little successes, especially in a field as personal and tumultuous as writing is. So for now, while I'm still building myself up, learning about myself as a writer, learning how to navigate this craft, I'm going to be proud of my latest accomplishment. I'm going to allow myself to be proud of this step forward and continue to put one foot in front of the other. I'm excited to see where this goes.
Something I've been grateful for during this experience is the help of my mentor, Zac, and the people that have helped build me up and support me. I've touched on how personal writing can feel in previous posts, so I was nervous to let anyone into my process. Even more so, I've had professors and other people I've looked up to in the past shame me for asking questions or struggling with my work. Combine this with my initial hesitation to try writing in all legitimacy, and I was very anxious to meet someone I hadn't known before and open up to them about my goals.
However, I have to give props to Zac because he has been amazing throughout my, albeit short, journey. He's been wonderful at answering any and all of my questions. When we meet he offers down to earth encouragement and advice that has made me feel like I can actually do this; his success as an author has only added substance to his words. (He recently interviewed Erik Larson- how cool is that?!)
When talking with him about meetings and how to pitch ideas, he gave me insight into the industry that I never had before. While it may be difficult to actually put into action, he has been incredibly encouraging about submitting ideas and sending out pitches to magazines and people; he's advocated for me to face rejection and also said magazines can be unexpectedly accepting of articles if you give it a shot. I've always been worried about trying to pitch because I don't have an educational background in writing and I don't have much of a portfolio at this moment. Zac, however, has supported the idea of "shooting my shot"- simply asking people for an interview, pitching to local magazines, even if I don't feel like I have the background for it.
While I have yet to pitch an actual article to a magazine, we had a really fascinating speaker on sustainability in one of my classes the other day. I found the speaker's work intriguing and thought that members of the local community would like to hear about it. I put two and two together and decided that this might be a good first pitch for me: not only is it someone I would have met face to face before the interview, but it's a subject matter directly related to my field of study, so I'd feel knowledgeable talking and asking questions about it. Maybe it was a moment of excitement or courage, but I approached the speaker after class and asked if I could interview him for an article. To my surprise he was immediately on board with the idea and gave me his business card to set up a meeting. No, we haven't met yet. But I am excited for when we do!
While I don't think I've reached the stage of writing where I'll start seriously facing rejection (read: trying to get published), for me, even getting this far has been a huge step forward. I've gone from nobody even knowing I enjoyed writing to having contacts in the industry and even setting up an interview. This has begun to prove the truth behind Zac's advice of just "giving it a shot". Had I not given writing a shot in the first place, I wouldn't have met these people or had these opportunities. The positivity and support I've been met with have built my confidence faster than years of hiding my writing ever had. I know these reflections tend to be sprinkled with cliches (they're cliches because they're true, okay?), but I think the theme here is: you'll never know until you try. I was afraid of being met with discern and rejection, but I would have never experienced the exact opposite if I hadn't given it a shot in the first place. While I'm sure the future inevitable rejection will be difficult, I'll never know unless I try, right?