- spent days trying to make sense of Apple’s App Store submission process
- discovered Jedward in my office (they were filming a TV series, apparently) and
- was told by a novice writer that I was "very brave" to submit my work to agents and publishers
I have to admit that the other writer’s comment wrong-footed me somewhat. Sending stuff out is what writers do, and there was a voice in the back of my head saying "that’s not bravery, that’s just business." But I accepted the compliment gracefully, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised the truth of what she had said.
According to my handy dictionary (OK, I actually have an office full), courage and bravery are "the ability to do something that frightens one." Sometimes, it seems to me that the very business of writing is about controlling and conquering fear. Reading Candy Gourlay’s Words & Pictures post earlier this week, the main point I took away was the sheer terror that gripped her as she tried to write a follow-up to Tall Story.
I fondly remember the days when I could sit down and just write stuff, free from the pressures of craft and quality. As much as I try to get back to those playful times, I often feel the icy fingers of fear slip around my heart as I open up my laptop. Sometimes, when things are going well, I can trick myself into thinking that I’m not writing a book, but as soon as I realise what’s happening, the game is up.
Somehow, I get through, wilfully (bravely even) turning up each day until I have thirty, forty, fifty thousand words of a finished novel. And then, briefly, I reach a moment that is positively golden and I’m sure what I’ve written is totally amazing. Perhaps I could even extend that moment by shoving the manuscript in a drawer and never looking at it again. But I don’t do that, because I need some kind of payback after all that hard work.
So I have to let other people read it.
This is a different kind of bravery, the willingness to let others poke and pull at what you’ve created, to suggest improvements or express disapproval. I find giving my work to another writer just as frightening as giving it to an agent. Although you only get one chance with an agent, at least they will generally let you down lightly, with an anodyne form rejection or a comment about not being "excited enough" by your work to take it on. A fellow writer, on the other hand, will often take a work to pieces and give you a list of instructions on how to reassemble it. This is all in the spirit of making the book better, but it sure can sting an awful lot at the time.
If I'm being honest (which I am), even the process of writing a blog every week makes me a little scared. I hit the publish key, send a couple of tweets and emails, then wait to see if anyone wants to read it, or even better, to comment on it. Some weeks, there's just an empty silence that makes me wonder if I've written something so terrible that nobody can bear to tell me about it. Call it insecurity if you will, but the part I find hardest about showing my writing to the world is the idea that someone (anyone) might dislike what I've done. Given the subjective nature of our craft, I guess I need to gather up my courage until I can face that idea and move past it.