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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Heave Ho!

                                                  Image result for courage

This would be the equivalent of a writer whose words stay in the computer in a draft file. They're safe from judgment but they are never going to take you on any exciting journeys.

I've taught many writing classes and when my students asked me what the one most valuable piece of advice I can give aspiring writers, it is: "be brave." The main reason 999 out of every 1000 writers (or whatever the stat may be) are never published in any form is because they lack courage.

I've had students who wrote novels and students who wrote poetry and students who wrote comedy and students who wrote non-fiction. For many of them, it was all they could do to bring themselves to read in class before an audience of 20...and some of them never did. I knew they would never end up being published.

My course included the mandatory assignment to submit a manuscript somewhere, anywhere, whether to a book publisher, a newspaper, magazine, a poetry editor. I showed them how to find the most likely markets for their type of writing. I told them not to expect success their first time out. Rather, they would most likely get a rejection letter....or no acknowledgment at all.

I told them rejection went with the territory. Even the most popular and praised authors have felt its sting many times. I told them about writers who were rejected 10, 20, 30 times before they found a publisher for books that ended up going to the top of the best seller list. Those authors believed in their work and didn't allow themselves to become discouraged. They persevered until it paid off.

I would estimate that at least half of my students never submitted a manuscript. In some cases, it might have been lack of motivation but I'm convinced, more often than not, it was lack of confidence.

I understand how hard it is to send your precious baby off into the cold, cruel world where it might get kicked around by callous editors and come back to you stained and torn (not so much now that everything is done on-line but the feeling is the same). I've been through it. It never occurred to me to think that my writing wasn't good enough. I blamed it on publishers not wise enough to see its value. Every successful writer has to be a little arrogant!

You can take classes and go to conferences. They are bound to help you. You'll find encouragement and understanding there, but in the final analysis, no one is going to stand over your shoulder and force you to raise the anchor on your ship. You have to find the courage to set out on your own.

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