Writing can be a dangerous act. Some days we emerge from writing feeling alive and strong, more connected to the wide world, while other days we feel raw, sensitive to the enormity of life, or we're frustrated by our inability to convey what we mean to say.
Sharing our work can be a painful experience. The other morning I read a Facebook post by a fellow writer who'd been blindsided when a person publicly called his work, and his literary journal, worthless and trash. Understandably, it cut this writer deeply. My mother always said, "Consider the source" when someone dished out unkindness, but it's not so easy the when disdain is directed at our work, our voice, the place where we are most alive.
It raises the question: How do we measure the value of our work in our lives? How do we develop the thick skin necessary to carry on and trust that we have something to say?
By opening ourselves body, mind and soul to the world we make ourselves more attentive and available to its wonder. It's how we attempt to capture the beauty of being alive, explore the mysteries around us, make sense of all that we don't yet understand, and discover truth and beauty in the most painful aspects of being in the world.
I caution writers to care for themselves when sharing new work. Choose readers who are dedicated to helping you hone your voice and grow as a writer. This is an important reason why I started Lakeshore Writers, to provide a safe space for people to come together, to write, create, to take risks, get wild and let the critics be damned.
When we're discouraged, all I know for certain of is that we have to return to what we love, to the work of putting the words on the page, searching for the right phrasing, rhythm and language to render a thing real, visceral; to write story into being, to say best what we most want to say. And to trust that if what we have to say truly matters to us, if we've said it strong to the best of our abilities in that moment, there is someone who will want to read it, who will be touched by our words, welcome the company of our language, and be reminded that they are not alone.