Publish Your Writing. Please.

Publish Your Writing. Please.

This is to the apprehensive writers out there. To the ones who are afraid to hit “publish.” To the college-age neophytes who are convinced they’ll never hit the big time, and the Gen Xers who feel they’re too old to start.

To each and every one of you, please — PLEASE —share your work with us.

Here’s why:

There are people out there who will welcome you with open arms, if you’re willing to do the hard work of publishing your piece.

I know this from experience.

“She crawls out on a limb and begins to build her home. And it’s enough just to look around and know that she’s not alone.”
— Ani DiFranco, "Up Up Up Up Up Up"

Three weeks ago, I published my first-ever blog post on Medium. I’d spent months poring over books, articles, and blogs on launching a writing career. I scribbled notes and downloaded e-books and signed up for freebie courses. I did everything except write, simply because I was too scared.

Eventually I got sick of the planning and the reading and the thinking, and decided to actually do the work. I drafted up a quick post, added a few photos, and clicked the “publish” link.

Then I willed myself not to throw up.

Spoiler: I didn’t die. No one pointed and laughed at me. I wasn’t mocked and ridiculed in the streets. Also, very few people (other than some close friends and family) even noticed the post.

But, then I wrote more. And with each post my followers increased. Some of my words have been highlighted by readers, and I’ve received wonderful feedback from fellow writers.

One writer, Louise Foerster, wrote about one of my posts. She doesn’t know me. She had no obligation to promote my work. But she did, and because of that I received more followers and “claps” for my work.

And this: today I learned I’m a “Top Writer” in Advice on Medium. I’m not really sure what that means, but in an effort to live up to my lofty title, let me offer you a few nuggets of wisdom:

Write.

Write every day. Write with abandon. Write creatively. Write about your life. Write what you wish your life could be. Write about characters you’ve never met, and characters you’d never want to meet. Write carelessly, infuriatingly, ridiculously rule-breaking stories full of adverbs. Write colorful catchphrases that would make Tom Wolfe proud. Write with so much honesty that Hunter S. Thompson would want to buy you a shot in the afterlife. Write in your journal. Write on napkins. Write in an app. Write using your laptop.

But please, for the love of whatever god you believe in, write.

Then, when you’ve completed a piece you feel you want to share…

Edit.

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”
— Stephen King, "On Writing"

That thing you just wrote? It sucks. Welcome to First Draft Land. But you know what? It will get better. The writing every day part will help with that. As will editing, an all-too-critical step in which you will erase entire paragraphs, move the intro to midsection, rejigger the title, and flesh out some ideas. It can be daunting work, but it’s also kind of fun. (Who doesn’t love pulling out the red pen and acting all high school English teacher?) Edit your writing. Edit it as honestly as you can. Look at it with a critical eye and fix, or altogether erase, what doesn’t work. Then…

Find a Reader.

When you think your final draft is ready, have someone read it before you share it with the world. Find a friend or a spouse or a family member or a colleague who can offer gentle but truly honest feedback. In my case, my husband is my beta reader, for short stories as well as blog posts. He points out narrative inconsistencies, catches grammar and spelling issues, and suggests areas in need of improvement, all while never ridiculing or questioning my abilities. I don’t publish anything without him reading it first. I need that second set of eyes to ensure my writing is up to snuff.

Once your reader has given the ok, it’s time to take the hardest step.

Publish!

As Linda Caroll wrote:

“There’s no point in launching your writing to crickets.”

You’ve worked hard to write and edit your piece, and you’ve had it proofread and polished. What’s the point of all that effort if no one is going to read the finished product?

As scary as it is (and it scares me every single time), you must click “publish.” You have to get your work out there.

Your voice matters, and your words matter, and there’s an incredible, supportive community of readers and writers and thinkers out there who would be happy to have you.

So, please. Share your work. I can’t wait to read it.

 

A version of this post first appeared on Medium

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