By reading a short, negative review, your confidence shook.
“I don’t think your style lends itself to short fiction.”
Although you hope everyone will enjoy your tales, everyone knows tastes vary. Still, you experience moments of insecurity. (Perhaps ‘moments’ might be better defined as ‘periods of crippling fear.’) Quite frankly, you question your own writing chops, worry about squandering your limited time.
Why torture yourself thus? Because writing provides a route to self-discovery, an escape from the mundane, and an effective form of creative expression. You love it. In truth, when someone accepts a piece for publication, you glow. Seeing your words in print validates your efforts. So why allow an opinion to destroy your momentum?
Back in the 1980’s you wrote for Gannett Publications, covering local board meetings. The A.P. picked up a couple of your stories. Your editor offered you a staff position. His associate, however, hated everything you wrote.
“You aren’t looking at this properly. You need to emphasize this,” he’d say.
Idealistic and naive, you stiffened. “My professors explain what you’re describing as media bias and slanting. I want to be a serious reporter.”
Always one to hate confrontation, you declined the job at the press and wrote poetry and short stories instead. A little historical journal offered you a non-fiction writing and editorial position. Emboldened, you sent out short fiction for consideration.
You married, bore children, and life grew complicated. Your then-husband became addicted to chat rooms and the like, using the computer through the nights. He left you and the little ones for a cyber –world of his creation. During this trial, you did not write other than hand-written journal entries. Writing seemed frivolous as you struggled to salvage your marriage and provide a nice life for your small children.
When he demanded a divorce, you had no more fight, no more words. You poured yourself into the children, tried to make life “normal” for the kids. Looking at the computer felt like seeing an adulterer’s face. He left fingerprints on the keys where he pressed out messages to his new-found companions. He littered the memory with hidden pornography and assertions from other lovers. Whispers of other bank accounts and clandestine appointments lingered in the history.
You wanted to take a sledgehammer to the thing. Instead, you placed it in a corner of the basement beside bookshelves filled with your stories and books on the craft of writing. Your folder of rejection letters and published works gathered dust along with the rest of your dreams of authorship.
Then, Hurricane Ivan dumped five-and-a-half feet of raw sewage in your house. The computer and any evidence of your aspirations drowned. You watched the pages of a children’s story float by like a shark-attack victim as you sat on a basement step, helpless to halt Nature’s rampage. Friends, not FEMA, helped you scrub out the mess. You exhausted your financial resources to replace some of the loss, but nothing could restore your lost words. No more writing tools and no more writing.
Years later, you remarried, and your amazing husband Andy purchased a sleek, black laptop for you, one devoid of your ex-husband’s fingerprints, one free of that tainted history.
A friend presented a challenge. “Let’s write about the little town of Barking.” (Thank you, Laura Lovic Lindsay.) Your imagination fired, and you wrote a horror story. You joined Dee’s Daytime Writer’s Group at the local library and found encouragement and companionship. Words flew from your fingertips. You found Facebook writing groups, forging friendships with remarkable writers. No longer able to curtail the stories inundating your imagination, you wrote pieces for consideration. Some found acceptance. Those that did not you rewrote.
In the past, neither the editor nor your ex-husband stole your voice – You trapped it behind doubt and fear of confrontation. Today, the words of a critic gave you pause, but instead of giving up, consider the message. Improve your skills.
You still have much to learn, so continue to challenge yourself. Push through this latest bout of self-doubt. You won’t go back to the self-imposed silence. You have stories to tell. You are a writer. So write.
With hope and belief,
To read more of Kerry’s letters, click here!