This winter I set myself a number of deadlines. Without uni-work I finally had a little more free time — a little, mind — and decided I should try to send work out there. Into the dreaded sphere of the internet and go off the known paths, into the dark side of the map where there be monsters. And judgement.
What did I expect? A lot of things, mainly bad. I pictured returned items marked all over in red, angry emails asking me why I bothered them, and similar ridiculous and melodramatic ideas. So far none of the above have happened. I also imagined good things: ecstatic comments and helpful advice, but as I would wager many others have experienced the negative voices far outweigh the positive ones. I sent stuff out, anyhow.
So what happened?
All the things I had hoped for, actually.
It is one thing to write and write well, that is a life-long commitment. It is quite another to share what you write. (I would like to think this is true for any creative output.) After you’ve written x-amount of words whether it is fiction, poetry and so on, you want readers and your words want readers: that is what they are for.
So what I hoped for was, in essence, to write a lot and forcing myself to work toward a deadline proved extremely useful.
I also hoped to learn when to let go, to get over the fear of letting people read, get used to hearing no, and figure out just how you go about sending things out. Now, after a few nerve-racking and rewarding months, I can say that I am at least better at all of those things than I was half a year ago.
Things I had not anticipated also happened: I learned what standard ms format actually means (more complicated that I had thought) and that writing a cover-letter should be classed as an art form. I tried my hand at genres and styles I had never tried before; I have written more words than I thought possible; a flash fiction piece made it through to a second reading; a short story was accepted and published online; and, perhaps one of the most rewarding, one rejection came with a long letter offering both encouragement and advice, what more can you ask for?
At the moment I am putting short stories and deadlines on pause. I hope to spend the rest of this month devoted to the final phases of a novel that has been in progress for the past four years… My goal is to push through and finish the first draft, then print it out and stack it in a massive pile on the nearest table. Then, sometime in the future I might (with a whole lot of coffee and perhaps some wine) get off the path again and go into unknown, badly written, territory to find out if any of it is worth keeping.