The first year I started taking my writing seriously, I showed my work to everyone who was willing to read it.
This was something I had never done before. I was the writer who closed the notebook/clicked out of the window whenever someone came into the room while I worked. I didn’t want anyone to see my imperfections. I was self-conscious and terrified of being judged harshly.
I’m not sure what made me decide I needed to start sharing my work if I was going to be successful. I have a feeling a teacher, somewhere along the way, encouraged it. (I was blessed with wonderful English teachers — I wouldn’t be surprised.) But at some point, I just started sharing. Family. Friends. Teachers. I never felt good about it — but I knew, deep down, it was important.
And it was. By the end of that first year of writing more, more often, for the sole purpose of getting better, I’d signed up for a creative writing class. I had a handful of friends I could count on to give me honest feedback (how they had time for that, I’m still not sure). But most importantly, I’d lost that crippling sense of fear that had kept me from sharing my writing for the first 13 years of my life.
A lot can happen in a year. Especially when you dedicate yourself to Making Writing Happen.
Not everyone starts writing when they’re young. I think it’s easy for a lot of us to forget that. I don’t care what age you are. If you’ve never taken your writing seriously before, and you’re ready to do that now, a year seems like a long time. A lot of writing. A lot of stepping outside your comfort zone.
Believe me — if 14-year-old me could do it, you can DEFINITELY do it.
At some point in that year, you realize the only way to fail, the easiest way to stay exactly where you are, is to never try. It doesn’t matter if your writing isn’t as good as you want it to be yet. The more you put yourself out there, the longer you stick with it, the more confidence — and skill — you gain.
The biggest change you’ll notice within that first year isn’t even related to your writing itself. It has more to do with how you view yourself, and your work. By default, writing a lot makes you a better writer — there are other factors that play into that, but writing is definitely a hands-on skill set. But you can be a great writer and shudder at the thought of ever letting anyone else into your world.
That’s something you can overcome. If you want to, of course. There are those who choose to write only for themselves and never share. I respect that.
But if you do want to experience the community aspect of writing (the internet can be a wonderful asset for this — even I didn’t have the luxury in elementary/middle school), if you want to build confidence, if you really want to challenge yourself, getting your work out there is scary — but it changes everything.
If I hadn’t taken that leap at 14, I’m not sure I would have joined that creative writing class, submitted my first essay to a magazine, participated in my first NaNoWriMo, started this blog, or self-published my first “book.” It starts small. It builds. Those first very small steps changed my life, and are probably the reason I’ve been fortunate enough to create a career out of writing.
The first year is scary. But really, you have absolutely nothing to lose.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.