My wife and I had a date night over the weekend. This is a rare occurrence, made all the more so by the fact that we traveled close to an hour to get to our destination: Bennington, Vermont.
We went to a local brew pub, had dinner, saw the sights of downtown, checked out the battle memorial and then made one last stop at a classic dive before heading home. Nice, right? But what’s the connection to writing?
Five years ago I joined a critique group based out of Bennington. I stayed with them for over two years, traveling close to an hour each way, twice a month (weather permitting). This was back before I had anything published, before I had an inkling that I was even good enough to seek publication.
As my wife and I traveled and saw the sights, I remarked about the time I spent with the group. It was well worth it. They brought my writing to the next level, and without them I don’t think I would be published. But at the time, my wife admitted, “I feared for your sanity.”
And she was right. I was spending time and gas money we didn’t have, chasing down this elusive dream on dark back roads between New York and Vermont. The commitment was exhausting because of the demands of my young children, my full-time job and life in general. But still, I went there, as often as I could, armed with whatever I was working on, prepared to be cut down and prepared to provide as much constructive criticism as I could muster.
I don’t offer much in the way of writing advice, here–unless I do and don’t realize it. But this trip suggested to me the most valuable I unconsciously pursued: Go there.
There doesn’t need to be an hour away. It doesn’t even need to be outside your home, but I suggest it. For any craft, for any business, for any career you want to advance in, you must sacrifice. The same holds true for being a good parent, educator, human being. If you want to move from writer to author, I believe you must make a concerted effort to become that idea, and that takes a willingness to get outside your comfort zone, and to allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Now, this doesn’t mean you throw yourself on the altar of writing. Don’t be the sacrifice and have nothing left of yourself, but put up your ego, your preconceived notions of your talent, your whatever-stands-in-the-way and let others have a look see.
If you intend to write for the public, critical feedback is inevitable. And often there is too much of it. But if you went there and you became accustomed to such, you’ll come to understand what voices to trust, especially your own.
P.S. Thanks, Carrie, for taking me out. I can’t promise I won’t turn our next date night into a blog post, but I’ll try not to.