by Laura Michelle Thomas
A Strange but Familiar True Story
This week a contestant in the 2013 Junior Authors Short Story Contest sent me a very surprising note. She told me her friends had secretly entered her short story in the contest.
She figured it out only because she kept getting emails from me with contest news and updates. She thought, “This is really weird. I’m getting emails about a competition I didn’t enter.” When she asked her friends about it, they confessed they had copied her story from Wattpad, formatted it for the contest, completed the online entry form, and submitted it on her behalf. Imagine her surprise.
The culprit who entered the story wrote to me and said she thinks her friend really wants to be a writer but “is just scared.” She said she sent in the story on her behalf to prove to her how good she believes her writing is. The friend went on to say the story in question made her cry when she read it. This friend was also the one who encouraged the writer to put her story on Wattpad.
This fear of being judged is very common in young writers. It’s not accidental that Polly, the wannabe writer and protagonist of Polly Wants to Be a Writer is fifteen, the same age as the young writer in this true story. What’s the cure for this fear? Read on.
Five Ways to Beat Your Writing Fears
Don’t Train Alone. It’s not enough to just hold up in your bedroom and scribble like a maniac. If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to bump elbows with other writers. When you do you will see that we all go through the same challenges. You can learn from writers who are further along in their careers.
Challenge Yourself. Set writing goals and join group challenges like the 20,000 Words in & Days Challenge that I host every few weeks on my Write Q&A Facebook page. The more you challenge yourself, the stronger your writing muscles will get.
Share Your Polished Work with Friends. Once you have revised a piece of writing, give it to someone to read. Tell them what you expect. Do you want detailed feedback? Do you want them just to read it and keep their comments to themselves? Know what you want from your friendly reader and communicate it clearly.
Go Public With Your Best Work. Many wannabe writers think that if they share their story on the Web that it will be stolen. Don’t worry. It won’t. And the fact is that if someone were to steal your work, you are protected by copyright laws. Your idea is not protected (ideas are a dime a dozen) but your expression of the idea is automatically protected as soon as you write it down.
Submit & Move On. When you finally get brave enough to submit your work to a contest or an editor, don’t obsess about that piece. Move on and start your next one. No writer makes a career from one piece of writing. You need to produce hundreds. So keep writing.
It should be the fear of not letting the words out that keeps you writing, not the fear of being read.