Thursday, November 4, 2010

Putting our work out in the world

“I realized it was my job to write to the best of my ability, take the risk of sending it out for publication, and let folks who make such decisions decide whether my stuff was any good. –Sage Cohen

One of the best things in Sage Cohen’s new book, The Productive Writer, is her sensitive and encouraging discussion of putting our work out in the world. This really hit home for me when I read it because in late 2009 I finished my first novel, Witnessing the Creation, and I’ve done nothing with it in the year since. Instead, I started writing a second novel.

Now there’s nothing wrong with writing another book. It’s great, in fact. But when a Writing Friday comes up, I don’t bite the bullet and investigate agents and rework my synopsis and get that novel out there where something wonderful might happen to it. It just sits in its folder in the computer and I think about it and it nags at me.

The truth is I’m afraid. Afraid it’s not all that great. Afraid I will be rejected. Afraid I’ll have to revise my opinion of myself as a good writer and storyteller. And as long as I don’t put it out there, I won’t find that out, for better or worse.

This same fear keeps me from entering contests with my poems and reading at open mikes and being part of the Portland writing scene. It’s easier and safer to sit here in my office and draft more fresh material or polish what I’ve got.

Now I don’t think everyone who writes has to write for the public. Writing is a wonderful act of creative self-expression and can have an audience of one: the writer. But I wrote the novel not only to see if I could but to tell a story. And that story isn’t being heard or read. So Sage’s advice is important to me. I need to do something with my manuscript—and soon.