Since I first decided to be a writer, I’ve dreamed of writing books. I have part of a novel written; I have compiled a rough collection of Advent essays; I have even outlined an entire book on modesty for young women.
All of these manuscripts live in the recesses of my laptop memory card, only bits and pieces have seen the light of day. Some of these words have never been read by anyone but their mama. That’s me, the one who painfully birthed these phrases and sentences, only to keep them hidden.
It’s a funny thing about my writing life, that I can be so ambitious and grandiose, imagining myself a published author. And I can be so timid and easily dissuaded. One rejection letter kept me from writing for nine months a few years back.
In her book, Rumors of Water, LL Barkat addresses both side of the writer and this ambivalence about sharing work and being published.
“Sometimes we don’t get anywhere near where we thought we’d go, selling far fewer articles or books than we ever envisioned, and we feel we’ve failed,” she says in the chapter called, “Don’t Go Alone.”
“When these things happen,” she continues, “do we have someone to carry us? Have we developed a smaller community who really cares about us as people, about our creativity and our essential selves?”
That rejection letter that kept me from writing for so long? It was only overcome by friends who knew that I would shrivel and die if I didn’t write. The letter was powerful in holding me down, but not so powerful as my community in lifting me up.
But the community also helped me wake up to the “delusions of grandeur” that LL writes about in a chapter by that name.
“We shouldn’t give up our dreams altogether,” she says, but instead to find a small audience first.
“It is not uncommon for writers to seek a large audience too early in their writing journeys. The idea of being published is a dream promoted by a cluttered market of writing books, writing conferences, and vanity publishers.
She goes on to say that most successful writers write for a small audience at least 15 years before they ever develop a large audience. Fifteen years!
But that’s the realism that having a small online community has brought to me. If I want to write, then here’s an audience waiting to read. I don’t have to wait until a novel is drafted, accepted, published, and printed.
This blog has been both an encouragement to my writing and a way to keep me firmly grounded.
But is blogging enough?
As I have progressed on this journey to become a master writer, I have found that the platform of blogging may not be the only kind of writing, or even the best kind of writing, for me.
I will continue to write in this space, to work out ideas, to process daily life. But also know that when there aren’t new words here as regularly, the words might be forming in another venue. And when it’s time, I hope you will join me in those new places, too.
How about you? If you are an actor, a poet, a dancer, a writer – how do you balance your ambition with your fears? How has community made a difference in helping you become a better artist? And what small audiences are you currently cultivating?
Photo by Nicholas Smale, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.