Risk Taking isn’t Optional

who am i not to beNot if you’re a writer, anyway. I still remember the first time I showed my writing to my family. I was terrified–heart pounding and palms sweaty–as they read my words. And then my mother, my dear mother, pronounced her judgement.

I hadn’t written that. I’d found one of those Madlibs-type-fill-in-the-blank-create-your-own-story things and was trying to trick her. Because if I could really write like that, why the hell hadn’t I shown her sooner?

Gee, Mom. I wonder why?

It didn’t stop there. With endless support from my husband, I finally managed to finish my first manuscript. Then I researched the publishing process and quickly realized I’d need an agent, and to get one of those I’d need something called a query letter, and maybe even a synopsis (folks were pretty grim on the topic of the dreaded synopsis). So I read a few blogs, whipped up my first query letter, sent it out, and waited.

My first two rejections crippled me. They were form letters! Not even personalized! But I was good, better than good, right? I backed up, regrouped, and started poking around online writing communities. There I learned about writing contests and all the grand promises about how they could help me as a writer, but they all required interacting with people, and that just wasn’t happening.

Now, if you know me at all, you already know that my opinion of putting myself out there didn’t last long. Writing contests literally changed my writing life. Every last one of my critique partners, who have all made me a better writer in infinitely fantastic ways, can be traced back to my (and their) participation in writing contests.

I might’ve signed with my agent from her slush pile, but I have no doubt that would never had happened if I hadn’t pushed past the fear and put myself out there.

So what would I say to the person who’s still frozen with fear? To the person who desperately wants to move forward with their writing but just can’t seem to put themselves out there?

I say be afraid. Be downright terrified. And then do it anyway.

Enter online writing contests, online communities, join a local critique group, even national and regional writing groups. No matter what path you choose, just get yourself out there. Listen, learn, grow. I can’t tell you not to be afraid. We’re all afraid. Embrace the fear, and take the plunge.



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