Vacuums are for cleaning, not writing in…
In my last blog post, I mentioned how we as writers crave our quiet time, but there is also the moment when we have to share our work with other people. I remember in grad school (I was in a writing program at NYU) I couldn’t write anything worth sharing for the first semester – except, I had to share. Talk about the humiliation! After reading what I thought was garbage (who are we kidding- it really was garbage) I would slink out of the building after class and purchase copious amounts of wine and cheese and then slip into a drunken, dairy coma when I got home.
Me in NYC, walking by a garbage truck, wishing my writing wasn't garbage
The thing was, I wasn’t writing anything worth sharing because I wasn’t willing to share, and I didn’t understand why. My first semester was literally spent in my tiny, studio apartment wondering why the cheese came in such small blocks in NYC.
Near the end of that first few months, I realized that I either had to cut my very expensive losses and head back to the Dairy State or start allowing myself to trust my voice as well as the people I was sharing it with.
Then, one day as I was shuffling out of the building, one of the very wise Professors saw me and gave me some very wise advice. He reminded me that I was a natural storyteller. He told me to be patient and to dig a little deeper. Writing is like ripping your soul out of your shell and slapping it out onto the floor for people to stare at and comment on. Nobody wants to hear,
“Wow, what happened to your soul today? It looks like hell,” or
“I can’t make heads or tails of your soul. What is it trying to say?”
I had to stop protecting my soul in the form of my written work and just put it out there. Easier said than done, but eventually, I did it, and you will too.
That said, stop writing in a vacuum. Have you heard that before? If not, then you probably need to. The proverbial “vacuum” for writers is not wanting to leave the comfort of their computer screen, or even that writing group of friends that love your work but perhaps doesn’t push you in the way you need to be pushed.
What I discovered, when I did allow myself to share my work, was that the devil is in the details, but there is love in a tough critique. It might be tough to take, but remember, you can take it, and it will make your work better. Most often, the people critiquing your work are writers as well, and they will be honest because they want the same courtesy from you for their work.
So, step away from that vacuum and start allowing your work to be seen and heard. This is the first step toward getting published, so put down the wine and cheese and start sharing your work – oh wait, that note was for me.