Becoming Vulnerable and Becoming a Writer and how they’re the same

by Mr. Sheehy

I’ve got a bit of good advice on writing here from Elizabeth Gilbert. Advice I like.

I have always enjoyed writing, and often I have felt as though I wanted to write something with the goal of having it published – say a short story or a poem – but not had enough of value to say – as if I had the vehicle but not the cargo. I would think, “Well, I would love to write a meaningful and moving essay and have someone publish it somewhere – but do I have anything important enough to say in that essay?” When I look into old notebooks I find reflections harping on this exact situation.

Maybe it’s that in getting older I actually do have more to say, or maybe it’s that I’ve stopped hoping that I’ll come up with something better to say and I’m finally settling for what I do have in me, but I’m now at the point where if I have a hair more time (say, as soon as grad school ends?), I might actually take Gilbert’s words not as inspiration but as advice:

It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism. Wasn’t that the point of the creation – to communicate something to the world? So PUT IT OUT THERE. Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

As a side note, I add this thought – that job reading all those manuscripts sounds kind of like teaching creative writing, but without the pressure of saying something nice to the writer.

Thanks for reading.