Recently, I was honored to pen the introduction for the monthly newsletter for the dynamic and inspiring Women on Writing community. In the hopes that this short article inspires you, my fellow writers, I’m re-publishing it here.
Love Your Writing, Love Yourself
While no one likes to get a rejection email, I recently received one that wasn’t quite as bad as most. It read: “Unfortunately, your submission is not the right fit for what we’re seeking at the moment, but please know that your story is valid and important. We would love to see your work again Ashley!”
I realize that this message was a form letter, and even the name field was auto-populated, but it had a curious effect on me. This note not only softened the blow, it also made me feel better about my writing. It reinforced my belief that all writers instinctually pull from a collective consciousness of love, sadness, grief, joy, and everything in between. This does indeed make my work, and your work, both valid and important.
As we celebrate the quintessential holiday of love, I urge you to take this opportunity to love yourself and your work. As often as writing exhilarates, liberates, and soothes, it equally infuriates, bewilders and exhausts us. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself permission to write and believe in your work.
To help, I’ve provided six quick steps designed to celebrate both the writer you are and the writer you can become.
1) Remember the time when you first knew that you were a writer. This happened for me in the sixth grade, when I wrote a poem on the first Thanksgiving that my teacher Mrs. Robbins posted outside the classroom. My first “masterpiece” was a little corny, and certainly contained predictable rhymes, but it meant so much that a teacher I admired was proud of me. I want to do this for the rest of my life, I remember thinking. This little victory has sustained and lifted me up ever since.
2) Tell people that you’re a writer. This step is so obvious I almost didn’t include it. But in my career, I’ve met so many people (even at writers’ conferences!) who hesitate to call themselves writers. They scribble under the cover of darkness, never share their work, and don’t trust themselves enough to tell the world about their greatest, albeit secret, passion. It’s time to come clean. “Outing” yourself as a writer will bolster your confidence and open a new world of friends and connections.
3) Celebrate your strengths. Marilyn, a dear writing partner, recently asked me to compile a list of her greatest writing strengths, something that I was delighted to do. She plans to use this list as part of her 2023 writing plan, which in my mind is nothing short of brilliant. You should do the same. Ask someone in your life—either a fellow writer or a reader of your work—what they admire most about your writing. Keep this list handy and refer to it often.
4) Love your writing enough to make it better. While it’s important to celebrate our talents and victories, it’s vital that we look beyond those moments and seek to improve. If you’re naturally good at setting a scene, consider pushing yourself to add more conflict. If characterization is your strong suit, tinker with your descriptions a little more. Or get better at finding just the right word to express yourself. One of my Christmas presents was the game “Wordsmithery” and by playing it, I hope my writing will soon be much more incandescent.
5) Post self-affirmations where you can see them. I’m living my best writing life. I move people with words. I will write a new poem every week. I will achieve my writing goals this year. You can post these by your writing desk or on your computer screen, but you can also stick them up throughout your home. Because we writers know that some of our best writing happens in our head—when we’re not actively writing. For example, I like to post my notes over the cook top, on my nightstand, and even in the mirror. Collect your own affirmations, read them out loud, and repeat often.
6) Challenge yourself by submitting to a more competitive market. What is your dream publication? Have you been putting off submitting out of fear? Doubt? Procrastination? Don’t automatically assume that you’ll get a “no.” Just the act of considering ourselves worthy of our most aspirational markets is an elixir to the psyche. Start submitting to more selective markets and I promise that you will begin to see yourself and your work in a new light.
And on this note, why not start NOW? That’s right. The purpose of this monthly newsletter, is to expose you to exciting new markets. To inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and submit your work to an editor who might be waiting just to hear from you. In this and every issue, we list a selection of outlets ranging from the emerging to the most selective, and none of these publications would exist without your submissions. In fact, as writers, it’s our responsibility to keep these markets alive by feeding them our work.
For more, including the markets, along with exciting articles on craft and submission, check out the entire WOW newsletter here.
And if you’re interested in learning even more about submission, I hope you’ll consider signing up for a special Zoom workshop on the subject of submission on Thursday, March 16 from 6 – 8 p.m.
In “How to Stay Out of the Slush Pile,” which is sponsored by Charlotte Lit, I’ll share practical pointers on getting your first byline (and your second and your third…) as well as the nuts and bolts of submission, including writing bios, cover letters and more. We’ll also do a little bit of writing that you can submit as soon as class ends.
I hope to see you soon, but for now, I hope you have a “sweetheart” of a writing month.