This week, I published a mini-essay about weightlifting and how it helps me rebel against the China Doll stereotype. But, of course, this post is not just about that (although I am ELATED that the story is finally seeing the light of day). I want to talk a bit about what it means to share your work as a writer.
It has always been incredibly difficult for me to share my work with those around me. I hate the idea of self-promotion, and I also hate being a nuisance on social media. As such, I hid a lot of my writing from friends, family, partners, and strangers.
More recently, I've started sharing my work through social media. Every time I pressed "post," my heart would be racing. I talked myself out of it several times before finally squeezing my eyes shut, clicking the stupid button, and running away from the computer to hide in a corner.
But here's the thing: The world didn't end. In fact, the world - my little world, and a little bit of the world outside of that - responded. I wasn't a nuisance. I was just a human trying to share something I loved to the people who loved me. And they, in turn, responded with kindness, excitement, gratitude, and love.
It felt so much better than I could have known.
Still, I get it. Sharing can be icky for first-timers and tenth-timers alike. If you're a writer who wants to share their work, but is feeling weird about it, here's what I would say:
1. Writing is a lonely activity
As all writers know, writing is a lonely and solitary activity. When I tell someone that I have spent the day writing, what I mean is this: I opened up Microsoft Word, I read my Twitter and Facebook feed, I checked the news, I despaired in the news, I got up to make tea, I contemplated whether or not I should eat, I did some laundry, I sit down again to write, I ate, I checked Instagram, I googled the history of the Terra Cotta soldiers, I wrote again, I started writing a different thing, I went down a YouTube hole of The Voice auditions...you get the gist.
And then bam. a day, a week, a month later, I finish a story.
When I am writing, there are days when I reach the evening and realize I haven't said a word out loud all day. Then there are the days when I stare at my words and wonder who the hell I am, thinking I could deserve to write anything. Rarely, there are beautiful and delicious moments when it all clicks and I feel like I've ignited.
What I'm trying to say is this: the writing process is different for all of us, but it is very much the same in this way - most of the writing happens inside before anything else happens on the page.
2. Writers hate sharing their work
Because of the insular nature of writing, a lot of writers can find it hard to share their work. There are a few thoughts running through every writer's head during this phase:
- Does anyone even care about what I have to say?
- Is what I wrote actually any good?
- What if people hate it?
- How dare I even try?
- Who do I think I am?
- Will this just spam people's newsfeeds?
- So what?
- Is this even important?
- Did I get something wrong?
- Worst: What if nobody reads it?
The last thing any of us want to come off as is narcissistic.
But the truth is this: in order to write, you have to be a little - a lot - narcissistic. Or, maybe we shouldn't be calling it narcissism in the first place. Maybe it's a galactic concoction of awareness, introspection, and passion. Maybe, above all else, it's a desire to communicate.
With that in mind, I reach number 3:
3. Writers MUST share their work
Writers must share their work, because while writing itself is a lonely activity, the ACT of writing is a push towards community and connection. The act of writing carries with it a sense of longing. Longing to reach someone, somewhere who can say, "Wow. You as well?"
If you are a writer who is having trouble sharing your work, ask yourself: Why do I write?
If your answer is something along the lines of: to feel alive, to connect with people, to tell my story, to give voice to those who have lost theirs, to fight, to live, to love...my friend, it's time to share your work. No matter how unimportant you think your story is, there will always be one person out there who connects with it.
Right now, stories matter more than ever. Diverse voices and experiences matter. Come and join the fray - it's wild, but it's also astonishingly beautiful.
4. How, though?
Start small: small websites and presses where your writing would fit, your own personal blog, a Facebook status, Medium. Get used to the feeling of pasting a URL into a text box and clicking "post." Practice it now: "Hey guys, I wrote XYZ and I would love if you read it." POST. Breathe. Be proud of yourself. Eat a croissant.
Find your supporters: because you will have supporters! Those friends who have been asking to see your writing. Your parents. Internet acquaintances you know through hobbies and interests. Communities that are related to what you're writing about. Total strangers who are looking for exactly what you have to say. Your supporters will show up for you, and you should hold them tight.
Don't be afraid to go big: what are your favorite websites, dream outlets, and adored publications? Read the things they publish. If it's in line with the kind of writing you do, pitch them (if they're accepting). Most writers will find the editor of their appropriate genre/topic (you can usually see this info in the Masthead, About, or Contact section) and shoot them a pitch. If you can't find their email, you might have to do some light stalking; the good news is, most editors have their email in their Twitter bio.
Keep going: keep writing, keep reading, keep sharing, keep believing. Why do you write? Your voice matters. Repeat it to yourself. And again, and again, and again. And again.
You can't do it alone. Here are some resources that help me navigate the intimidating world of sharing your work:
- Entropy's Where To Submit list - Probably the best roundup of literary publications and publishers accepting submissions, and their deadlines.
- Twitter Compilation of Publishers - A spreadsheet of magazines, online journals, and news outlets to submit to, with info on whether or not they're accepting pitches and who you should contact.
- Binders Full of Women & NonBinary Writers of Color - Exactly what it sounds like. Super supportive and helpful community of women and nonbinary writers of color who share their work and answer questions.
- Binders Full of Editors Seeking Their Freelance Writers & Vice Versa - Also exactly what it sounds like - lots of editors from big pubs (Bustle, Slate, HuffPo, Buzzfeed, etc.) post calls for submissions and pitches here.
- Opportunities of the Week email - A weekly email that compiles paid writing opportunities, curated from Twitter.
That's all for now, bbs. Go forth and create <3 You'll be more than okay, I promise. You'll be freaking brilliant.