Nothing will prepare you for what comes next once you decide to share the first page of something you’ve been working on for months. Nothing.
Some people say it’s all about being happy with what you’ve written. I urge you not to believe such people. Because if you take that step, and you make that first draft public, it’s no longer about “writing for yourself” – it’s about showing it to other people. People you don’t know. People who may think you suck. People who will not believe you want to do this as a full time occupation at some point. And of course, the rarer, kind people who encourage you, give you constructive feedback and look forward to taking a look at that better and improved second draft.
I only mention these people last, by the way, because they’re not nearly as scary as the people previously mentioned.
It’s funny, I thought writing for myself was a good exercise and that I was doing a good job so far. After all, if you’re writing for yourself, you’re limited to an audience of one, and one you happen to know quite well. You know your audience, and your audience knows you. One’s read your work. One’s familiar with your language and style, and your often whimsical punctuation.
One’s a tough critic, but one keeps coming back for more.
The moment I copy pasted the first page of my manuscript to a post nearly five months ago (I know – it does go by in a flash, doesn’t it?), the feeling that poured into me like a bucket of ice cold water was sheer, frozen terror.
You mean other people will read this? People whom you might not know? People who might judge your writing, your language, your style, your whimsical punctuation!? Jesus, is this first page really ready to go public? Absolutely not!
And that first draft (you know, the one you’ve now re-written like, eight times; the one you’ve grown to love and proudly call “your work”) takes a beating. Really, you have no-one to blame but yourself. Right? I mean, did someone hold a gun to my head and say, “Put it on your blog! Do it! Or the duck gets it!”
Ok, there is no duck. But you get the idea.
I’m not beating myself up over having published my first page (by the way, I believe thank you is in order, seeing as the day I published it was the day this blog had the most readers to date). This was an important step, and here’s why: now I know this whole writing thing is not of the “therapeutic” variety. I am no longer writing for myself, “putting my thoughts onto paper”, or any of the other things people say.
I’m writing for an audience. And this means that the very least I owe this audience is quality. So, as you can imagine, there’s some work to be done. If you’re still there when I’m onto the next level, I promise you, you won’t regret it. And if you’re not, well, that’s ok too. No pressure.
And of course, either way: thank you so much for reading.