My husband is full of great one-liners. Last week he said, “Honey, it’s time to stop singing in the basement and get booed on stage.” He’s also a musician, so this one had a ring of authenticity in addition to the sarcasm.
I’ve just finished an intense round of editing – not a kill the adverbs and spell-check kind of editing, but a cutting out 10,000 words of text and re-working entire scenes kind of editing. It was exhausting and necessary. It took a few months and a lot of metaphorical kicking and screaming. But now I have a better manuscript, one that may not be quite finished yet, but one which I can stand behind as “good” work.
And now it’s time to let people see it - people beyond my dad and best friend. So I’ve sent out a few queries and given it to a small group of readers who I hope will give me honest feedback. Truly, I probably hovered over the send button for an hour.
I know not everyone will like it. For one thing, it’s science fiction. My mom doesn’t even like science fiction. She got halfway through and said, “I think it’s good, but I got confused by all those different planets.” I’m starting a glossary for her - maybe that will help. But seriously, I’m okay that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. And still…
Any artist in any field understands that to share our work is to be vulnerable. We’ve risked opening our hearts to strangers - with words, in images, with a paintbrush, on a stage. We’ve put something of our private self out into the world. Even my story, full of spaceships and evil villains, has some of the real “me” in it. People who know me well will recognize those pieces.
A friend recently asked if I am more or less critical of other writing now that I write. And honestly, I’m both. Because I am trying so diligently to improve my own skills, I’m acutely aware when someone else’s are lacking. And I don’t like every book I’ve ever read. BUT, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the energy and effort it took to write that book, and the spirit it took to put it out there. So when someone asks me for a critique, I always say that part first.
The writing community is extremely supportive of one another. I think it’s because we’re all in a similar space. We’re all vulnerable. We’ve all felt the sting of rejection or of a careless, biting comment. Our moms might not even like our work. So why do it?
Because we love it. Because it is uniquely human to create art. Because it is immensely satisfying to touch another person’s soul with something we’ve made. And because the world needs its painters, storytellers, sculptors, photographers, musicians, dancers, and actors. We need them not just to entertain us, but because the mere fact that they exist at all says something powerful about being human.
I don’t write my books so only I will read them. I write to share. I write so that someone, somewhere will curl up under a blanket for a few hours and lose themselves in a good story. I write because I love to.
I’m willing to risk feeling vulnerable to do something I love. It’s uncomfortable, but I know most of my personal growth has taken place when I’ve been uncomfortable. Discomfort makes me stretch. So I guess it’s time for me to stop singing in my basement and get on the stage. Please no throwing tomatoes!!!