I wrote for years before showing my work to anyone but during a writing course given by an author that I admired, there wasn't any way around turning in assignments. When she called and asked if she could critique my work as an example for the class, she warned me what to expect.
Until that day, I don't think I realized that I had an ego but after “baring it all” and being thoroughly disheartened, I took a long hard look and decided that I’d written the chapter the way I thought it should be written. Technically, it was a homogenized recitation of information that I knew should be included in the first chapter.
It wasn't interesting. And I had to admit that if I would have picked it up in a bookstore and read the the first few pages, I would have put it back on the shelf because it wouldn't have grabbed my interest. It suddenly hit me that it might have been a little more interesting if I hadn't critiqued my voice off of the page before I'd turned in the assignment.
I re-wrote the chapter using the heroine’s attitude as a guideline for her dialogue and found the emotion that had been lacking. Ditto for the hero and guess what? My voice showed up. This time I didn't crowd it off of the page and the teacher told me that she laughed so hard while reading it that her husband had come into her office and asked her what was so funny. I figured I was on to something.
I could understand and employ every technique that I’d ever read or heard about but if I didn’t get out of my own way and trust that the way I needed to tell the story was going to be “good enough”, my stories would never contain that element that made them uniquely identifiable as mine.
Trust is such a little word to have such a huge impact but without it we live in a constant state of fear. We learn to trust our parents, our lover’s, husbands and friends. Trust is a gift we learn to give freely to so many others—why not ourselves?
Looking back, the realization that I needed to trust my own voice was probably the biggest “light bulb” moment that's happened along my journey to become published. How about you? What would you say is the one thing that’s helped you the most on your writer’s journey?
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