Sure, you may be comfortable and confident in social situations, at home, or at the office. You might regularly exude the look of someone who knows what they want and who comes across with a sense of knowing where they are headed. Believing in yourself is a hallmark of becoming an adult for most of us, and certainly goes a long way in making life easier. Yet, why is it that for some, that confident mindset goes right out the door when we share our writing?
In workshops, groups, and open mics, it has become all too common for writers to preface the reading of their work with the disclaimers, “this isn’t very good” or “I am really not a good writer” Why? Why not let the writing speak for itself? These disclaimers are distractions to those of us (eagerly) waiting to hear what you have written. As the writer sharing your work, you might find yourself surprised that your words pack more positive punch then you ever realized. This is especially true if you are working with a writers’ group that looks for moments which resonate within the writing.
True, the very act of sharing our writing makes us all vulnerable. There are risks to sharing your writing, yet risks have to be taken if your writing is going to evolve and improve.
Most writing shared in writers’ groups and workshops are early draft pieces. So why not call them what they are? If you are sharing a first or early draft, introduce the writing accordingly. If it helps, share that this is a new piece, a first draft, a piece that has not been revisited and let the others in the group respond in kind. Just don’t verbally put your writing down. You do more damage than good to your writing psyche when you speak negatively about something that you have created in conjunction with your imagination and your artistic, (in this case writing), abilities.
When you write, it is crucial for your writing practice and your writing life that you put faith in your writer’s voice and its uniqueness. Your voice, your manner of perspective, and your approach to stringing words together to create impact are yours and yours alone. Of course, if you are engaging in the full nine steps of the writing process you are going to eventually go through phases of revision and crafting before you finalize a piece. That goes without saying. But what needs to be said and emphasized really, is the value of believing in yourself as a writer and believing that what you have to say, the story you have to tell, is important and unique. Like you.
It is vital that to remain resolute in getting those ideas and words down on paper or up on the screen. It is also vital that to believe that your writing, no matter how rough it may be in its early stages, holds value and deserves to be heard. Confidence is key, my friend.
I often think back to an experience I had years ago when my now 20 year old son was in first or second grade. I was participating in one of those parent-themed days when parents come in and share what they do for a living with their child’s class. My presentation included a segment where the little ones were asked to write short snippets of writing in the form of a poem. After the writing of these first draft pieces students were asked to share. What struck me most from this experience and what has stayed with me over all these years was the great amount of confidence each (first or second grade?) child exuded as they stood up, (shoulders back!) and proudly read what they had written. They were confident, pleased, and focused on their words and their writing. All these years later, the memories of that collective positive energy remains contagious and the recollection of their confidence, inspiring.
As your writing practice develops and you ready yourself to share what you have written in workshop or manuscript reviews, I encourage you to tap into your inner first grader. Don’t preface your writing with negative words, even if you are feeling less then confident. Take a deep breath. Recognize the writer within you. Then let go and let your writing do the talking. There is time for deep and thoughtful critique when you engage in the later phases of revision. And even in these stages, the language used to discuss your writing should be one that promotes growth and revision without wearing down your confidence.
Now, we all know that writing is hard work and that sure, sometimes a first draft spills out in such a way that not much has to be done to finalize it. But most writers will work through hours and years of revision to get a writing project to a particular level of readiness. Seasoned writers are thick skinned and hearty in their abilities to ride out indifferent responses as well as negative ones. Their confidence feeds their drive and persistence. Thinner skinned writers learn to go with it and to hopefully make choices which will lead them toward supportive writing workshops and groups.
Yet, if you are workshopping with the right group, especially during the early stages of drafting, your work should be met with a level of positivity and the acknowledgement of what is working within the piece. As you learn what is rising up and having a positive or gripping impact on listeners and early readers, your confidence in your writing will grow.
So writers, take heed. Be kind to yourself and your writing, especially during the early stages. Think about how you talk about your own writing. Gather up your confidence and let your words be heard. Who knows where the writing will lead?
May the Muses be with you.