Love What You Create
"Well, congratulations on getting this published last year!" I told my student after I'd read an old poem of hers. "Thanks, but now I kind of feel like, ugh, I wish this wasn't published," she confessed.
"I know what you mean," I said. "I have that feeling about some of my earlier work, and it's totally normal. I think a lot of writers look back on early stuff and feel that way." I think of one writer whom I heard speak about how she was embarrassed by everything she wrote and published in her twenties. I feel similarly. I've grown so much as a writer in the past decade, and don't want to look back.
While walking our dogs on our dirt road this week, my husband and I were discussing a short story I'd had accepted by Burningwood Literary Journal that morning. "I mean, all of my work I care about, obviously," I said, as Nala, the dog I was walking, stopped to sniff a blade of grass. "But there are some pieces that I really feel strongly about and stand behind and really want to get published. This is one of those." There are certain pieces that feel like me on the page. That rare moment when I say exactly what I wanted to say. The thing about most of those pieces of mine that I've fallen in love with is that they get rejected. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. Eleven, twelve, thirteen, (fourteen...) times, more. Sometimes, I even start to question them, but realize that I love every word I agonized over, that everything is exactly as I want it to be. And I am determined to put that thing out into the world.
This is not the case with much, if not most, of my writing. Yes, I agonize over it, but some feels like it just works and others I really have to labor over and still never feel just quite right. Each rejection makes me question the piece, and often myself as a writer. Some pieces just sit there and I think, What's wrong with you? Why won't you work? And then, there are ones like this one that make me feel confident as a writer, that express something inside myself I'm dying to express. And I'm desperate to share that feeling with readers.
"If you don't love it, neither will the reader," I told another student this week when she switched topics with three weeks to go. "Write what you love." Pour your love into your work and it will reach someone.