On Being Published and Advice to New Writers

It’s been a bit surreal recently. After 5 years of dedicated writing, resulting in hundreds of thousands of words, I simultaneously got published and interviewed last week.

One interview question asked about advice for new writers. I chuckled at this since I still feel new.  It’s strange how, after writing several novel drafts and many short stories and poems, I often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing (and it’s not about being a discovery writer). Ernest Hemingway did say of writing that “we are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

But there’s that one thing that always feels right that I never used to do: write consistently. When I was a little kid playing Super Mario RPG on Super Nintendo, I would both draw and write fiction related to that universe. In high school, I wrote a short story about a thriving civilization hidden in a massive glacier. In college, I wrote terrible, angsty poetry and an equally terrible first novel. Still, it wasn’t consistent.

I loved to immerse myself in writing and reading, but I didn’t do it enough. It was easier for me to dream about an idyllic writing lifestyle than live it. I would say I didn’t have enough time or that I was terrible at it, but I was afraid of failing at it. I felt ever more anxious, frustrated, and uncertain the longer I didn’t do it. It felt like something was missing.

I quoted Pam Allyn in my advice to new writers. She said, “Reading is like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out.” What I didn’t include in my interview is that writing and reading feel as vital as breathing to me. If I don’t do them, I don’t feel complete. The only way I can fail writing (and myself) is by not doing it. Lawrence block said, “One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”

If you tend to live a bit inside your head or feel anxious about never writing (or reading), what do you have to lose by doing it? If you can find a sense of profound fulfillment doing it like I did, you’ll keep coming back again and again for it until writing becomes a fabric of your being.

I don’t write to be published (and you don’t have to either), but if we are published, maybe someone who needs a breath of fresh air will see it, and they can start breathing their own words onto their own page.

Writing is Telepathy and Rejection

Stephen King’s explanation of writing as telepathy is fresh in mind, considering I read it not 30 minutes ago from his venerable On Writing. King shared that he is writing the book in 1997, to be read in 2000 (at the earliest). His thoughts as written words were being sent across time and space through the magic of reading. Put another way, when writing (thoughts expressed as words) is read (words understood as thoughts), it’s telepathy.

We’re doing the same right now.

I am sharing my thoughts on July 2021 from my desk in St. Louis to you, whoever, wherever, whenever you are. It’s a humbling ordeal. Easy to second guess, to wonder how dare I put these words and thoughts out there. That’s exactly why fear of writing rejections can be so crippling.

When writing is rejected, it may feel like our very thoughts are being rejected. It doesn’t get more personal. Then again, there’s doubtless some readers who haven’t read this far and rejected this post already. It’s easier not knowing, but much better, and likely necessary, to embrace it.

That’s why Stephen King stuck a stake through his rejections and into a wall until they fell from the weight. If we understand rejection is a part of writing, then there’s little to fear. Some collect them as scars from the writer’s struggle. Some compete for them. They can be little badges of courage. Something to be celebrated.

For too long now, I’ve rejected my own written thoughts by not sending them out to a wider readership because I feared others rejecting it. It’s sounds self-defeating and even a bit silly but that’s the nature of fear. Many of us have been there in one way or another. While I can’t telepathically communicate with my past self, I can still gladly assure my future self that embracing rejection is how we’ll be doing this writing telepathy thing from now on.