In grad school, I’d often talk with my professors about my fear of publishing my memoir – All of my most private thoughts unleashed on the world! They’d always say to worry about publishing later and keep writing. But what happens when the writing is done? What happens when you know it’s time to submit a piece to a website or a magazine where actual people will read it?
Well, I’m still not quite ready to publish my memoir, but between my essays, columns, articles, copywriting and ghostwriting, I’ve probably written and published nearly 200 pieces. Along the way I figured out how to overcome my biggest publishing fears.
What If My Writing Isn’t Good Enough?
Let the editor decide. Your job is to write, so write. Write the best piece you can and then send it out. The more pieces you publish, the easier it is to push past your perfectionism. It’s the writer version of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Instead of one piece being responsible for all of your hopes and dreams, they get spread across several pieces, so you feel less anxious about each one.
Becoming an editor for literary journals also taught me to be gentler on myself. I get all kinds of submissions from writers I would never dream of publishing. And almost without fail, that writer will have been published four or five different places. So, believe in yourself and your work and send it out. The worst that could happen is you send it out and get rejections from a few different places and learn the piece still needs more revision.
What If This Is The Best Thing I Ever Write?
The first piece you send out will likely be what you consider to be THE BEST THING YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN. You’ve likely put a lot of care and attention into this piece. When it’s published, you will celebrate, you will want everyone you know to read it. Then this funny thing happens where a few months later you look back at that piece and you see how flawed it is, all the ways you could have made it better.
My first big publication was Gawker. I was so proud of that essay at the time. Now, I cringe whenever I look at it. From the writing to some of the logic I exhibited. I’ve published enough work at this point that it isn’t one of the first things that pops up when I Google myself. And honestly, the pride I felt at the time and the other works that piece led to, make it all worthwhile.
You realize that your piece was not perfect, yet it got published anyways and, most likely, readers enjoyed it anyways (I still get compliments on that piece from time to time). This is how you learn that each piece you write will always be limited by the greatness of your craft. If you continue writing, you will continue to write better pieces. That’s just how it goes.
What If I Get Trolled?
Getting trolled is not fun. I had someone get all bent out of shape over a piece I wrote about watermelon. After my Longreads essay, my work was posted to an AR-15 forum (Yup, like the gun) and some really unkind things were said about me. But really all of those things only motivated me to keep writing. There have been way more people who have thanked me for my work, than people who’ve wanted to fling insults at me for my writing.
One last tip, you could always do what New York Times Bestselling author Roxane Gay does. Tell yourself no one’s going to read your work. I mean, more than 2 million blog posts are published everyday (Side note: This seems like a great opportunity to thank you for reading our Penmob blog 💖).