Writing my first book was a huge rollercoaster of emotion. With no training, I jumped in head-first and just went for it. It took me nine months to birth the first draft and in that time, I grew dramatically as a person and found out what it really meant to be a writer. I learned that not only does being a writer mean persevering when it’s work and not just fun, requiring huge amounts of dedication, but it also means putting your heart on the line.
Ups and Downs
When I first started, the adventure was a total rush. Writing felt amazing and I was on fire. I’d fly through fifteen hundred words like it was nothing. Piece of cake.
But then, something happened. As my novel approached 50,000 words (the midpoint for the story), I could feel myself losing momentum. First it slowed, and then one day it ground to a screeching halt. And after a few days…a week with no progress, I found myself in a state of writing depression. Fortunately, I was able to feed from the encouragement of some fellow writers and get back into the game. I even made it to that surreal moment when I was able to type the words “The End.” But once the first draft was complete, I had a whole new animal on my hands.
While working on the second draft, I decided it was time to get some outside input on my work. But it was very hard to put my baby into someone else’s hands. I wasn’t sure about anything—my target audience, my skill level as a writer or even if anyone else would like the thing. Sure, I was proud of what I’d accomplished—finishing an entire novel, I knew that was a big deal. But handing it over to someone else…anyone else…that was a very scary thing.
Risk vs. Reward
Putting your art on the line for others to critique is a very humbling (and terrifying) experience. Many artists keep their work to themselves for that very reason. But I finally bit the bullet and what I gleaned from that act of humility was amazing. I received helpful criticism (for which I am very grateful), praise (a surprising amount, actually) but the most immediately helpful thing I received was the motivation to continue writing.
Getting negative feedback can be depressing, but getting positive feedback can be completely freeing. For me, it was just the push I needed to know that I was on the right path—I could be a writer—I should be a writer. I already was a writer and just needed to see myself as one. After that, I had a newly realized desire to push forward and hone my craft, putting every ounce of myself into it.
If you’re an artist who’s hiding your work in a hole, I encourage you…no, I urge you to share it with others—friends, family, coworkers, mentors. Anyone you trust enough to give you honest feedback. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s crap (few artists can see the true merit of their own work). What matters is that sharing your work is a huge step to growing as an artist. Not only that, but if you have a gift, it wasn’t given to you so you could keep it to yourself. It was meant to move, to bless and to awe others. And if you keep it to yourself, you’re robbing the world of something amazing—you’re robbing us of you.
What part of your art have you been keeping secret? I dare you to share it with someone.