When I started sharing my writing with the world a little over a year ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t. I have some bylines under my belt but I am still just figuring this out one day at a time.
When I sat at my first writer’s conference, a small event that I had received a scholarship to based on the first piece of writing I sent out into the world last year, I felt so out of place. I sat next to authors who were pitching manuscripts of their books to editors and agents. I leafed through titles at the book table of others who had been writing for most of their lives, who had a plan and a purpose. I was just beginning.
The dreaded question, “What are you working on?” was asked by every person I met. Sometimes I tried to make myself as small as possible, melt into the background, so I wouldn’t get asked again. My answer, “I am just trying to find my voice right now” seemed ridiculous. But it was the truth.
I had silenced my voice for so long that I didn’t know how to really use it anymore. I just wanted to be in a place with other writers and learn from them. I left that conference with some great tools and ideas to get started on my brand new blog and submitting writing to others, but I still wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to say.
My writing, at fist, felt like that timid answer I gave at the writer’s conference. I was scared to raise my voice above a whisper, holding back and trying to sound polished and sure. I felt so lost in the sea of amazing writers online and paralyzed by my lack of knowledge. Did I mention I didn’t have a clue what I was doing?
An amazing thing happened when I started sharing my voice with others, though. I found real people on the other side of those words I had read and the pedestals I had placed other writers upon. I don’t know how I had made them these untouchable superheroes of faith and vulnerability. I guess we do that with anyone who is living the life we want to live. It makes it all seem so unattainable.
I sent a couple pieces out to collaborative blogs I loved. The first month…cue the crickets chirping. I pulled my courage up around me and sent again. I about fell out of my chair when I received an email from a writer I adored saying my piece needed some editing and asked if I would be willing to work on it with her to get it ready for publication. I won’t lie. I went all fan girl but then I played it cool and emailed her back.
That was one of the hardest and most wonderful weeks for me as a writer. When I opened the document and saw all the red marks and comments, I thought, “It was that bad?” On my third re-write I told my husband, “If it takes this much work to make my writing good, I will never be able to do this!”
As I read over that piece today, I see my writing through the eyes of another. It was hard, at first, to read it after her edits. It didn’t sound like me anymore, was so changed. But now, I can hear my voice in every word. It is my voice as it should be, with the loving experience of another helping it take shape.
Every single time I write, I think of her edits. I shorten my sentences that like to run on forever. I try to let the reader make their own conclusions, instead of telling them every last thing.
As I continued to write, I found more people who were willing to make a space at the table for me, to share their words and lives to help me grow.
I look back on the past year with wonder. I now consider that original editor a friend even though we haven’t met yet in real life. One of the first places I run with requests for prayer, for aching needs, is my online writer’s groups and the communities I have built with other writers and readers this year.
I thought I was setting out to find my voice and I was. I have learned how to be more honest and raw, how to say what I really want. I think I always will be in the process of finding my voice, though. I never want to stop growing and listening to the wisdom others have to share.
But really all along, I was finding something far more important.
I found my people.
I found my place.