While completing my creative writing degree, every few weeks I’d have to share pages of my writing with my fellow writing students and the tutor taking the class.
I would bring in printed copies of my stories or poems one week for everyone to take home. Then the next week, those same pages were pulled out covered in notes and edits and scribbles. My writing was barely even in first draft stage, let alone ready for others to read, and it was rewritten, scratched out, deleted and restructured by a room full of other aspiring writers.
I was rarely comfortable in the lead up to sharing my work.
Having this deadline stressed me and I dreaded pressing print on those early pages. And yet I did share it, before it was ready, because I had to. It was what we had to do.
My fellow students took turns sharing their thoughts on my writing. They shared what they liked and what they thought was working. They shared what they didn’t like and what they believed I needed to change. And before they shared these notes, I would have to read my work aloud to the entire class. Both the feedback and the reading of my work terrified me in equal measure.
Sometimes the feedback I received was unhelpful, sometimes it was petty or nasty. I remember once a fellow student held another by the throat and threatened to kill him following a particularly heated writing critique. For the most part though, the feedback from the room was fair and measured.
This workshopping and sharing of writing wasn’t easy for anyone, and as a protective and sensitive writer I found it especially hard. But it gave me an appreciation for the clarity that comes when you share your work.
Though it was rare for the comments in those workshops to help me move forward with my writing, the act of sharing my writing did.
As soon as I passed copies of my stories out across those shiny desks, as soon as they were slipped into satchels and dirty backpacks, the answers would come. The challenges I’d been having with the story, the scenes that wouldn’t gel, the resolution I couldn’t quite grasp, would appear as if in the flesh. Hey, here I am – the answer. I’ve been here, all along.
The act of sharing my writing brought me perspective, but only once I’d pressed print, sent off the application, handed in the assignment.
Only when it was too late would clarity drop with monsoonal subtlety. Only then did I know exactly what I should have changed or rewritten, even before my peers had spoken.
A deadline has a way of bringing us that clarity.
Lately I’ve set myself some deadlines, to help move my writing forward. It’s been hard, but it’s also really helped. Whether my writing was ready or not is beside the point. Even now as I send my work out into the world, I want to wrench it back, change things, edit and perfect. And each time this happened, I knew instantly what I had to change to move the story forward, tighten a scene or tweak a sentence.
// Try setting a deadline for your writing?
// Try sharing your work before its ready?
// Try sending your work somewhere you can’t take it back from, like an online publication or competition, or even emailing it to a friend?
Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction or business writing, the deadline and the act of sharing itself will bring its own rewards.
See what happens. You might find answers and uncover the clarity you’ve been looking for.