A friend in the blogging community (Elizabeth at Saved by Words – Elizabethslaughter.com) suggested that I could think about who I’m writing for when I’m writing something other than a blog post, since I’ve been struggling to want to work on anything other than blog posts.
In a lot of ways, my writing feels automatic to me, because I’ve been doing it my whole life. I spent a huge part of my childhood telling myself stories, about trips to other planets and alternate families and happier endings to my own life stories too. As I got older, I wrote poems and songs and stories and novels. I would write to organize my thoughts, and to remember what I was thinking, because I forget things so quickly. I wrote down dreams in order to remember them, and then to process what they might mean. When I started the blog I quickly found that it was a satisfying way to connect with actual people. I didn’t have to tell my stories only to myself anymore, or send my words out into the ether to be judged, or ignored.
Over the past eight years that I’ve been blogging I’ve come to realize that my favorite thing about writing is hearing back from readers, knowing that my writing has been read and heard and processed and responded to. The feeling of satisfaction I get when I see that people really feel something in response to my words is so much better than getting an “A” in school (which is still pretty nice). And I’m loathe to waste my writing on literary magazines who will just reject my work after a year-long waiting period, when instead I could post something today and get responses from thoughtful readers within hours.
But I still want to be a professional writer; the kind that gets paid. And I still want to write longer form essays and fiction. I LOVE fiction. I love the freedom it gives me to change the stories of my life into something more hopeful, or to live out a completely different life from my own.
The problem is, when I think about writing professionally I start to feel distant from myself, remembering all of the rejection letters and the critiques and the endless questioning of how I write and what I write about and who I write for and the underlying, persistent, mantra telling me that my voice doesn’t matter and won’t sell; my writing is too literary, or too commercial, or too serious, or too lighthearted, or too plot driven, or too character driven, or too emotional, or too intellectual. But when I sit down to write for the blog I remember the comments I received on the previous blog posts, and the encouragement and kindness and investment of my readers.
There’s that, but there’s also something else. When I’m working on longer projects, my writing voice varies. I don’t have any conscious awareness of trying to fit a style while I’m writing, or any conscious control over how the words come to me, but when I read over the draft, days or weeks later, I can see how my writing was influenced by my intended audience, or by my preconceptions of who they would want me to be.
I wish I could write everything the way I write for the blog, trusting that my readers will care about me and respect me and engage with the subjects I care about. I want to be able to write from where I am at this moment in time, instead of trying to guess what other people will want to read at some moment in the future. And I want to challenge myself to write the different things that interest me, the long essays, and the children’s stories, and the mysteries, and the Young Adult novels, and the memoirs.
And I would love to see my books on library shelves, in hardcover, with beautiful reviews on the back cover; and I’d love to win awards and make a living from my writing, and be interviewed about my work.
But I don’t trust that the larger audience will embrace me and accept me the way my blog readers have, and I think I’ve learned to stop myself from writing the things that could force me to face those rejections again, even though I want to write these things.
If only I could quiet the voices that recite all of the rejection letters to me when I sit down to write, and replace them with the voices that are kind and thoughtful week after week. Maybe then I could be prolific again, or at least feel free to write everything that matters to me.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?
This is super doper cool and I wish I could write atleast like you do. Clearly expressing my thoughts
The common wisdom is that a writer has to paper a room with her rejection letters before she will have a story accepted.
I’m working on papering my ceiling….
I remember getting a list of the rejections my agent had collected for Yeshiva Girl, it went on and on and on. That cured me of ever wanting to paper any surface with them. It sucks.
Rachel, remember one thing your blog inspires many other new bloggers like me. I haven’t yet read your book but would like to read one day. One can instantly connect with your words and there’s a distinct flow in writing. You compel the reader to question their thoughts and at the same time you put forth your thoughts. I love it when write about your dogs, your workshops or honestly anything that you write. Keep writing!! And best wishes for your next book!!
Thank you so much!
You are right to write about things that interest you and move you deeply, because when you do that – it will touch the hearts of your readers. Don’t give up. I’ve been writing for 50 years ago (I started sending out manuscripts and collecting rejection slips while I was still in high school) and have 150 rejection slips that I plan to turn into a collage someday. But, I now have 30 published books and am working on another. I started out with a publishing company, but when it went belly up – I went self-publishing. The 1-Star reviews and criticisms hurt and are hard to forget…but it’s a part of the total package, so it’s worth it. God bless you in your quest to write professionally. Very few people make money at it these days – but you could be the exception…so keep writing! And your blog and photos are brilliant.
Thank you so much!
Brilliant background! Congratulations. I liked you said 50 years writing. That is great!
I look at writing like running in a marathon. I will never win much but will hang around long enough to finish what I enjoy doing . Age also has something to do with my writing as generational clashes in values can come into play.
There is a yawning gap for many of us between enjoying writing blogs, getting enough comments to know at least some people have read and enjoyed, getting your self published books in paperback and knowing your mother and and the young chap next door enjoyed reading them AND being a successful author interviewed on arts programmes, books on shelves in the bookshops and libraries.
Those voices that can help to create amazing worlds and characters so true to life also so capable of stopping us cold in our tracks, hopes and dreams. I’m sure that you will find the way that works for you in silencing your inner critic.
Congratulations I know writing experience is a great help. I struggle a lot trying to land writing jobs to make some much needed added income and it is always a daunting task. My goal is landing a writing job that will pay well and last for a nice long time, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, At least you have a loving furry face to make you smile I am in between cats at this moment and I am hoping in the future to adopt another since I have had cats all my life, However, a doggy would get me up and out of the house.
Dogs are great at forcing you to go outside!
I wrote a book about raising my daughter who has significant, complex disabilities. The title is- Raising Jess: A Story of Hope. The book is due to be released next month! It’s taken 4 years! I started writing the blog, at first, to start building a platform for the book. BUT THEN, I fell in love with blogging! I wake up each morning thinking about writing – All the great writers have been rejected – don’t give up! You are a good writer! I will check out Yeshiva Girl –
Thank you so much!
Thank you, Rachel. Your words encourage me to keep up the blogging. I’ve all but given up other writing.
Blogging is a wonderful thing!
Intreresting! I have also loved writing since I was a kid. I wrote stories for my own pleasure. I have also dreamed of being writer, (specially after my commercial poem which gave a little bit confidence in my own skills) but I have those same struggles still. Yes in blogging world it’s different, so nice that you get feedback immediately!
It’s really wonderful!
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