There are so many writers out there who are just so hesitant (scared, really) to submit their work. As one told me at a recent conference, “No! That’s my baby! You can’t step on my baby!” This is for them.
I used to teach high school English and physical education and I coached football, girls’ basketball, and junior high boys’ track. It might seem curious, but to discuss writing I’m going to call on my experience as a coach rather than as an English teacher. Writing for publication is not that different from playing organized sports, be it a team sport like football or an individual sport like golf. To be really successful you must have some natural talent, and you must supplement that talent with lots of hard work.
In either case, the writers or the athletes are putting themselves out there. It’s the attitude of “Hey, look at what I can do!” Kids have that attitude naturally but it tends to get, literally, schooled out of us as we grow. We’re told that if we just must show off, channel that urge into acceptable venues—sports, music, art, and, maybe, writing.
In sports, the athlete at any level has a coach. There is someone there to tell them what they did well, what they did poorly, and, most important, how to do better. From the high school level on they have video analysis, slow-motion replay, and a coach with a loud voice to get the idea across. But, most important, to get that coaching they have to show what they can do. They must earn that coaching by having the courage to put it out there.
Mary Rosenblum, in her role as an instructor for LongRidge Writers Group, and as the author of their newsletter, has written more than once that rejections are a good thing, and that the writer must earn those rejections. Earning the rejections is earning the coaching.
A class with LongRidge, or Clarion, or perhaps another professional writing school is worth the money. But even after that you need another source of coaching. We can recruit readers to help us out, or use one of the many writers’ forums out there just like athletes can work out by themselves or work out with their friends and practice with their teammates. But in the end those athletes still have to put it out there for their coaches.
And we writers still have to put it out there for those editors.
If that fifteen-year-old kid can put his hand in the dirt and take on the guy across the line in front of coaches, players, and audience (not to mention parents), then a writer can send that story to an editor. If that thirteen-year-old girl can do balance beam and floor exercise routines in front of teammates, classmates, coaches and parents, then certainly an adult that wants to be a published writer can submit an article to an editor, when no one but the editor(s) and the writer will know it earned a rejection.
All too often the “coaching” a writer gets is a simple, “not for us” or “no thanks.” Admittedly that’s not nearly as helpful as that loud-voiced coach. But writers will never ever know if they’re getting better unless they take the risk of putting it out there and earning that coaching—the coaching that comes in the form of rejections…and, eventually, acceptances.
When I was one of the two assistant football coaches, the head coach continued to emphasize one thing to the players: pride. They should have pride in themselves, pride in their effort, and pride in the results that came from that effort.
The same applies to writers. Do the very best you can with whatever talent you have and coaching you can get, and be proud of it! Be sufficiently proud to send out that writing and tell those editors, “Look what I can do.”
There’s no video replay and no demanding coach, so there’s only one way to get better. Have the confidence to present yourself to coaching and have the confidence that your talent and hard work along with that coaching will result in a better writer.
Let them see what you can do.
♦ Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.