I remember the first time I let a group of people read my work. This was just at the beginning of the period of time where younger me considered that, hey, maybe this hobby of mine could be something more.
One thing I still clearly remember is the fact that I was completely and utterly terrified. This was my work, something I’d spent ages on, and now I was just going to read it for these people–and throw myself at the mercy of their critiques?
I’ve done it quite a bit since then. But every time I take my work to a writing group to have it critiqued, I get that feeling. Granted, it’s smaller than it was that first time, but it’s there all the same.
But from what I’ve witnessed over the years, it’s better than the alternative.
And just what is that alternative?
The alternative is letting it sit there, letting yourself make edit after edit after edit trying to make it “perfect” and hope that one day you’ll share it with the world. That alternative is having half-started project after half-started project.
I’ve seen both versions of that alternative play out, and I can tell you neither is good for a writer.
But Mary Helen, you don’t understand. You’re just saying it’s hard for you to release your work.
I’m really not. I even admitted it in this week’s Raconteur Roundtable.
So what are ways you can set your work free?
1) Start a Blog
Or write a column for an existing blog (like yours truly does). Either way, it has two benefits. The first is that you are getting in the habit of writing regularly. The second is that you are putting your work out there for the world to see on a semi-regular basis.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be fiction. It can be articles, thoughts on what’s going on in your life or in the world, or reviews of your favorite books series or TV show (if it’s this option and it has time travel, shoot me a message and maybe we’ll talk about getting you to write for the Time Travel Nexus). It doesn’t really matter what it is, it matters that you do it.
2) Find a Writing Group
I’ll admit, it’s been awhile since I’ve been to one. Life does get in the way. But I did find this beneficial. You can find these in three places.
In the Community
There is a local group here in my hometown. I went for years, before life just got in the way and my schedule became a bit hectic. But for a while, week to week, I took a bit of my work to this group and let them help me find ways to make it better.
They pushed me. I needed to write every week so I would have something to show them. It also got my work out to a small audience and allowed me immediate feedback.
And sometimes, you really just need that.
At Your School
Yes, this one really only applies to students. But considering James and I met at our alma mater’s creative writing club I can’t help but point out that that is one place you should look.
If nothing else, you might find a friend for life. I did (two, counting the always fabulous Nicole Petit).
I was actually a part of an online writing site for a while. It was fun because it pushed me in a different way, and also gave me a place to go on a daily basis that allowed me to not only get feedback but build friendships with fellow writers.
I sometimes miss those days. It was like Cheers.
That being said, it isn’t necessarily hard to find somewhere to go to share you work and by doing it with a small group of people, it makes the big releases easier.
Here’s Another Confession
The week Badge City: Notches was released I think I was checking Amazon every hour on the hour while I was awake to see how it was doing.
I needed that validation to tell me that people were actually reading something I wrote. I had written a book and it was out there–and people liked it and read it.
But if you don’t let your work go then you don’t get to experience that feeling of relief and joy.
And what’s almost worse is that this idea, the one you’ve dedicated a lot of your time to, that you are probably really passionate about, won’t ever have the chance to shine.
So let it go.
Let it go out in the world for all to see.
It might not be perfect, it might have spots you regret down the road (yes, I’m eyeing my first ever short story).
But it’s your journey as a writer.
And unless you make that first step, your journey won’t go nearly as far as it could.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
A lot of people write in their spare time as nothing more than a hobby. Shoot, until about five years ago, I was one of them. But then, with the encouragement of some friends, I took the road less travelled and let my work out into the world.
You can too.
Because I will be the first to tell you, it makes all the difference.