Learning to Let Go
I took a writing workshop class sophomore year. Each week, a few people submitted a chapter of their novel for the rest of the class to read, critique, and workshop together for half an hour in class.
The first week of class, our professor asked for volunteers to be in the first group to submit. I volunteered to be in that group. Then I panicked, because I wasn't working on a novel. I didn't even have an idea. I figured I had a few weeks to think of one.
I ended up turning in the first chapter of a novel I wrote in high school. I hated every word of it and I was sure everyone else would too. I planned on coming up with a new idea for my next turn to submit.
I didn't need to. Everyone loved my idea. I got passionate, all caps comments, positive feedback, and got to listen for half an hour while 11 other writers talked with excitement about words I wrote.
It was one of the most terrifying and exciting thing I've ever done.
That half hour drove me into a frenzy of revisions. Almost all my free time that semester was dedicated to writing. I interviewed characters, I drew maps of their house, I listened to hours of piano music and walked barefoot in the woods to get inside the narrator's head. I revised and revised and revised. Then I revised some more.
I'd never been so energized by revision. Up until that point, I didn't see a point in revising anything, because I thought no one would ever read it anyway. My dream of publishing a book was exactly that: a dream. A fantasy. I didn't think it could come true.
This class showed me it could. I had to write a query letter and book proposal. I had to practice pitching my novel. I had to convince myself it was good enough to do something with. And I did.
Now, almost two years later, I have a draft I'm proud of, two friends read said draft, and a spin-off. I also took the class a second time and submitted chapters from the spin-off, which is also a completed draft.
But none of that would have happened if I hadn't let go. I didn't let go of my dream to publish a book, I let go of my fear of showing others my writing. I let go my embarrassment of the story I wrote. I let go of the negative view I had of its potential.
I let go of the story. Even though I was terrified (I literally cried before that first workshop out of panic), even though I was sure they'd hate it, even though I was prepared for failure, I let it go.
I can't imagine what my life would look like now if I hadn't. It's the story that made me feel like a "real" writer. I am a more confident person because I let go. I'm a better writer because I let go.
So, even though it's scary, you have to let go of your story. You have to stop holding it so tight to yourself that no one can see it and let others look. It can't grow until you do.
Do you have a story you let go of? What difference did it make in your life?
The novel I mentioned is now titled Chaos in G Major. You can read a short description of it on my works page, here.