Today, I am turning my blog over to the fabulous and talented Martine Helene Svanevik, a fiction writer from Montreal.
Martine spends her days editing text for computer games, her evenings powerlifting and crossfitting, and her nights writing twisted stories set in a darker world than our own. She graciously agreed to come on my blog today and talk about the Big Fear writers face…
The Big Fear
I started my writing career in academia with a five year History program at the University of Oslo. Academia is all about harsh critiques. There’s no mollycoddling or pulling punches. You learn to step up and get knocked down. This form of continuous trial by fire makes you handle feedback without taking it personally. And that makes you a better researcher.
After developing a skin so thick it could be elephant hide, I embarked on my journey as a fiction writer, sure that I’d be equally cavalier about any feedback I got on my stories. How wrong I was. You see, writing academic papers is all about doing the research, working the problem and then phrasing your arguments in a way nobody has thought of before. It’s a job with goals and measuring sticks.
Writing fiction, on the other hand, is like taking a little piece of your soul, moulding it into something you’re proud of, and then being brave enough to open your hands just enough to show that inner part of you to someone else. Having that critiqued is a whole ‘nother world of pain.
After my first writing class, I was crushed. I felt like I’d shown someone my baby and they’d told me it was ugly and that I should never show it to anyone again. I despaired. If even a group of other struggling writers could make me drown my sorrows in pitchers of Rickard’s Red, how was I supposed to send anything out to a publisher?
I went home and I polished and polished, and pushed the date to send my story out by a week, a month, three months, and so forth. The longer I waited, the more comfortable I got not showing my work to publishers. It’s not ready yet, I thought. It needs more work.
Lucky for me, I found a competition that fit my genre so well that I couldn’t let fear get in the way of participation. No entry fee, 50K prize money and a publishing deal. So I polished my manuscript one more time, sought solace with Uncle Whisky, and pressed the send button on my email.
And do you know what? It didn’t hurt a bit. It was exhilarating. As soon as the story was out of my hands, I had room in my head for new ones. Better ones. Of course, I didn’t win the big publishing deal, but I learned that receiving that sad note that says “Thank you for your contribution. Unfortunately…” was not as crushing as I thought it would be.
Did I overcome my fear of rejection? Not at all. I still hold my breath every time I send a piece of my soul out to be weighed and measured, and I still feel like someone stomps it into the ground when I get those rejections back. But I also know that if I want to get published, I need to dare take that leap. And maybe, just maybe, a publisher will measure the piece of my soul that I put in their hands, and find it compelling.