Saturday, January 03, 2015

Query Question: fear of others reading your work

How do you get over the fear of having someone else read your work? To me it feels like being stripped naked in a room full of supermodels**. 

I'm probably not the best resource for this but fortunately, the readers of this blog are writers in your shoes. They'll have some good answers, probably better than mine.

But I'll take a whack:  You get over it by doing it. Practice, in other words.  Start where the stakes are lowest. Send your query to one of the many places online you can get feedback. Absolute Write is the one I know about. There are many many others I'm sure. Don't get mad. Don't quit. Just take the advice that seems useful, implement it, and try again.

And remember that one of the Rules for Writers is to Be Brave 

Readers? Your ideas and input needed here.

**supermodels look better with their clothes ON, just remember that too. 


JeffO said...

For me, the greater fear is not in having some agent I've never met before read my work, but having it read by people I'm close to! What I think this reader needs to remember is two things:

First, any rejection by the agent is not personal. It's not about YOU, it's about the work, and while that can seem like a really, really thin line, it's always about the work. And a rejection doesn't necessarily even mean the work is bad--it just may not be right.

The second thing is this: if you're seriously considering pursuing an agent, it's because you are writing for more than personal satisfaction, or to scratch some sort of creative itch. It's because you WANT other people to read it; you WANT to be published. If that's the case, then the only way it's going to happen is if you get it out there for others to read. Janet is right, you just do it. And it does become easier over time, but it will always be an act fraught with anxiety. Good luck.

Jeanne said...

If writing makes you feel exposed and vulnerable, choose a couple of good friends who read a lot to be your first readers. I know that friends won't be objective. I also know that when friends see you in the story and respond positively--which they will because they love you--it might help relieve your fears. It worked for me.

Valerie said...

i've joined a few sites that promote friendly critique from other writers. i prefer, but there's also

i think one thing that'll help is knowing that no matter how bad your query is, someone else has probably done worse.

good luck!

Ardenwolfe said...

Realize now someone will hate your work. It could be the best thing since sliced bread, but someone will call it bad.

Amazon reviews bear this out.

Once you embrace this reality, you'll find it easier for others to read your work.

Just remember, if they criticized it, after you've published it, there's a pretty good chance they bought it.

And that's the bottom line.

What you need to fear more is that they won't read it at all.

Now that's a justified fear.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

In the beginning I chose not to have friends read me stuff. I did not want to put them on the spot by having them HAVE to find something nice to say, particularly if there was really nothing nice to say about my writing. I wanted someone I had no history with to tell me the truth.
Because I am an essayist and columnist, my life IS my writing so it was very hard not to take negative comments seriously.
That was then, this is now.
After many years of doing what I do, I have confidence in my form, my shtick (so to speak). If readers (editors) don’t like what, or how, I say what it is I am trying to say, I examine whether they are right. If they are I change it, if not, I probably change it anyway. I guess confidence is the key and that builds over time.
Having written two books (trunk novels) just thinking of someone reading them (again) gets my knees knocking. Like I said, confidence is the key and regarding fiction (I ain’t got none).

So I guess I’m saying, if it’s about me, I’ll get naked. Fiction? I am wearing a turtleneck full length with sweats and Uggs and a blanket over my head.

It boils down to one word NIKE.

Janet said...

When I was 9, I wanted to go off the "high" diving board at the public pool. I was scared. So I stood in line and thought about other things until I was at the top of the ladder. I was still scared, but the humiliation of fighting my way back down that packed ladder was worse than the fear of jumping. I jumped. I survived. I loved it. I went right back. It wasn't long before the fear was gone. Fast forward a few years. I was playing guitar, writing songs, performing in public. I made all kinds of mistakes, survived them all and discovered that they often provided an opportunity to bond with the audience. The take home? Just do it without thinking too much about what you fear. (Do think about crafting your query well.) after you've done it, made some mistakes, survived anyway, you'll be able to thumb your nose at your fears. They won't necessarily go away, but they won't call the shots anymore. Good luck!

Mister Furkles said...

If you take Janet's advice and join an online critique group, you will discover everybody is like you. They're there to get and give help. Few people will critique a story they do not like. (e.g. I never critique romance because I don't read romance and wouldn't know a good one from a bad one.)

You will be semi-anonymous. Nobody will send hate mail. Nobody will egg your house.

Only one reader in a hundred need buy your novel for it to be a best seller. Similarly, many critique comments will be off the mark. Take the ones that help and ignore the rest. (For example, my spell checker thinks Janet should spell her name 'Janette'--I believe she will ignore my spell checker's comment.) If two or three reviewers say the same thing, reconsider that passage.

And remember this: You do not want the critique reviewers to love your work. You want them to find faults so you can fix them before you send it out to agents. It's like using a spell checker only more powerful.

Unknown said...

Don't think about anything else but writing "The End".

Every time you find yourself stressing about anything other than what your main character is up to, start humming Always Look On The Bright Side of Life from Life of Brian. Monty Python has saved me a few times. Or the theme song from Mission Impossible, whatever works for you. Anything, but don't let the negative thoughts linger. SQUASH, DESTROY and kick into the garbage can that you've set up in the back of your skull. Then get back to your book.

My personal experience is, if I did need outside support, the best was from total strangers. Other writers, such as The Kill Zone, or Every Day Fiction give feedback. Read archives. Submit.

Unknown said...

As for supermodels, John Grisham just wrote a book that sucked. Supremely. No one is super. Except maybe my mom.

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

I think it is absolutely necessary to find experience and new writers to become your critique partners. Sharing work and critiquing for others is the way to learn and grow as a writer. You need others to find plot holes and things you've missed in your work.

I thank the stars everyday that I took that leap and got my work looked at. It was scary. But I learned and got better. My critique partners are now my most wonderful close friends. You'll need that support system to survive the ups and downs of this wild publishing ride.

There are lots of great people to meet on AgentQueryConnect and also in the twitter writer community. Jump in and you won't regret it. Start small and gain confidence. It gets easier.

Anonymous said...

If you write and you're serious about it, the logical next step is to let others read it. All/any of the aforementioned sites (Scribophile was one I joined back in the day) can help. I won't regurgitate what everyone else has said. We all choose and pick who will read out work. The most satisfaction I've received as far as opinions were from impersonal individuals. B/c they didn't know me, and I didn't know them.

Amanda Capper - I so totally agree with you, and I'd be willing to be I know the book you're talking about. It aggravated me to no end to see it on a top ten list for a while. It was terrible. T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. (just to show how bad, and yes, emphasize, I took the time to add periods after each letter in terrible.)

Anonymous said...

Excuse typos above, but I bet ya'll know what words I meant. :)

Anonymous said...

This is a fear that's really hard to get over. There's a group on facebook called the Sub It Club that's private and it's really good. Just ask for permission and you can get in. They have a critique group, stay very aware of contests and are a fantastic support group. We all need cheer leaders.

I've belonged to the Compuserve Books and Writers Lit Forum for years off and on and recently become very active again. It has a writers workshop where you can exchange crits on work and often times posses form there because people find they work well with certain people and break off to form their own teams.

That's where I found my team.

A tremendous amount of best-selling authors have spawned there, Joanna Bourne, Diana Gabaldon, Vicki Petterson, Helene Boudreau, etc.

I also have another private place that has recently opened its halls to new members if anyone is interested. They are very talented and supportive writers and you won't find any snark. I'd be happy to offer the secret handshake. They really are fantastic people and have published authors who know what they are talking about in their ranks.

I joined a couple of writing groups before I found Lit Forum and it was painful. There are a lot of "expert writers" out there who sit around in their ivory towers offering their lauded opinions, tearing everyone else down, so they can show how much they know. I ran across several of these right in a row when I was starting out and thought, "Wow, I guess I really can't write."

Thankfully. A lovely woman sent me a private message and told me I had a charming voice. I just needed practice and I should ignore the asses. She then sent me to Lit Forum.

If you're serious about writing, you don't need people tearing you to shreds just to make themselves look important. Neither do you need people telling you atta boy without pointing out the places where you can improve. We can all improve. You need peers who can help you grow, but do it in a constructive way. And trust me, it's often painful. 'Tis the way of the writer.

I remember one of my posse members telling me, "Voice, voice, voice. When it's on it's on, but this isn't working as a story. I think you need to start all over and...."

She was right. After I stopped crying, I gutted it and rewrote it three times.

Wendy Qualls said...

This is going to sound really silly, but . . . fanfiction.

I'm serious - pick a series/movie/book you like and do some writing exercises with those characters, then make an account with a fake name on one of the many fanfiction sites online and post it. You're pretty much guaranteed to get only positive responses back. It's not going to be useful in terms of heavy critique, but getting regular "so-and-so loved your story!" updates can go a long way toward balancing out the rejections from agents :-P

Unknown said...

My skin had been so thin you could see through it. Then I took writing courses w/critique by peers. That way you can freak out privately. As JR said--you do it. Your skin grows layers. You get your own CP's and your skin is suddenly that of an alligator. Keep your eye on the goal: writing the best you can. To do that? We need thick skin and resolve.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet Ursel said it too, NIKE.
"Just do it...".

And, I like what Donna said, "The most satisfaction I've received as far as opinions were from impersonal individuals".

And Mister Furkles, "Nobody will send hate mail. Nobody will egg your house".

Makes me want to break into my trunk and take our one of my own. As usual QOTKU has Perfect timing.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

All excellent advice given here so far. Sharing your work is HARD - there is no argument there from me!

BUT... consider this: if you are at this stage that you are even considering it, that means you think there must be SOMETHING good about what you wrote, right? THAT is what you have to keep with you when you start small and give it to someone.

Also, consider what it is that you are worried about... any parts of your writing that you think another might criticize are parts you probably need to work on anyway, so it won't be a surprise. Re-read the parts you like best - the parts you feel the most confident in. This will carry you until you get the feedback.

Allow yourself to be upset, at first, with the criticism. We can say it's not personal (and we're right), but it still feels that way, so it's okay to feel the punch. But then, what do we do after getting knocked down? We get right back up again. And when we do, we become more objective and can also see the good feedback buried within the so-called "bad".

For me, so far, it doesn't get easy, but it definitely gets easiER.

DLM said...

Another way to tackle this is NOT to go head-on and do crit groups, but to do other things that educate and expose you to the business of writing. Conferences are the best. things. ever - and writing communities online and IN PERSON are incredibly helpful in developing an overall maturity and confidence. Writing communities help educate you and also acclimate you not only to having your work read, but how to read *others'* work, which in turn gives you a more objective experience that can reflect on your own work being in others' hands.

Sometimes, the indirect approach has very wide benefits, and sometimes firing with buckshot instead of a bullet gets you more yield. Not that you should carry a sidearm to go to writing events! :)

And, in the more immediate circumstances: submit and share when your life is busy. Have things to do and think about while your work is out there, because (particularly during querying) it is going to be out for extended periods, sometimes. You just can't be "feeling" it all the time.

Indeed, that itself helps blunt the vulnerability. When you're seriously querying, and the work is in the hands of multiple agents for a period of weeks and months as you get it out there, sooner or later the "vigilance" of feeling vulnerability just has to flag. :)

Colin Smith said...

If you're writing with a view to being published, you're going to have to get over the fact that people will read your work. One day, thousands, maybe millions will be looking at your writing. But I understand, at first, when you're just trying out your new writing shoes, when they're still a little stiff and painful to wear, you're self conscious about others seeing your raw work. Here's what I suggest. Keep your first draft to yourself. Write it, and make it as good as you can. Then find a trusted "First Reader"--maybe a best friend, a spouse, someone you trust to tell you the truth in love. Listen to what they say. Don't be offended. Don't take it personally. But hear their praise and their concerns. Then go away and evaluate their comments. Fix what you agree is wrong, and polish what you agree is good. Then find some writers who are willing to read your work. Perhaps post to Absolute Write--there are plenty of ways online to find people to beta read for you. Again, listen to their feedback. Don't get offended. Don't try to argue with them. Go away and evaluate their comments, fix what you agree needs to be fixed, and polish again.

By this time, you should be more comfortable with others reading your work.

Another way is to enter writing contests. For example, the next time Janet runs a flash fiction contest, enter (if you haven't done so already). Not only will it challenge your writing, but you get the opportunity to put a small example of your writing "out there" for others to see. Once you've done this a few times, your confidence will build.

Just a few thoughts.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

The ‘be brave’ post and the 53 comments are encouraging. That was eight years ago. Posting comments to the Shark’s blogs takes courage and contacting people you search appreciation from is terrifying. You just have to do it even if you feel you will embarrass yourself. I know. Selling your creations is business; it’s not selling your emotions. Try to be level headed, it’s not always easy. Don’t contact professionals when you are having a crisis. I am guilty. Call your friends and talk about cats.

While shopping at the market this morning I was thinking about this same question. I remembered Stephen King’s words in On Writing. I can’t remember his exactly how he put it, something like not worrying what your mother thinks. That did it for me.
My skin got thicker when I started waitressing and would cry when clients criticized the food or if the coffee was cold even if it would boil the skin off your thumb. Or if there wasn’t enough gin in their Martini even if there wasn’t any vermouth. I cried all the time. I cried when my application was rejected from Rutgars because I wanted to be a journalist and it was Rutgars or bust.

I haven’t published fiction, have quit writing many times, threw three novels in the city dump.

Julie.M.Weathers says voice, voice, voice. I agree. The writers Janet reps have awesome voices. She has an awesome voice. Once upon a time the Shark sold her first novel. I wonder what it was.

Try W1S1 and get used to rejections. Try different crit groups, the worst are those where people just say “That’s nice.” Copy entirely word for word your favourite novel. Burn some dinners and serve them to a dinner party without excusing yourself just to see what people say.

All the power to you.

Unknown said...

Donnaeverhart, I was so disappointed I left a review on Amazon. Usually, if I don't like a book, I don't bother saying anything, but when the supposedly greats start pushing out crap, knowing us fans will buy it because it's him, I get angry.

My apologies for not sticking with the original thread. Will shut up now.

D. B. Bates said...

A recurring theme in many of these comments is, to quote a Troy McClure title, "Get Confidence, Stupid!"

Most commenters have shared good methods of building up confidence. What worked for me, which I haven't seen expressed here so far, was reading simply others' work with a critical eye.

DLM alluded to this as a means of handling your own critiques better--when you're critiquing, it's easier to see others aren't making personal judgments on you.

I'll add to that by saying reading critically has made me a much better writer, which has improved my confidence exponentially. Seeing the problems in others' work helped me avoid those same problems, helped me find solutions to problems I was having, and helped me identify techniques and literary devices I really like (and those I really don't).

The more you do it, the sharper and quicker your critical eye becomes, which makes it easier to make good choices in your own writing. Knowing you've made good choices helps to build confidence as much as anything else that's been mentioned. When you type "The End," even knowing it's imperfect and readers will offer valid and valuable criticism, you'll find yourself wanting them to read it instead of fearing them.

This is something you don't have to find a writing group to practice. Published books, even those hailed as classics and masterpieces, warrant as much criticism as unpublished drafts. It kills a lot of birds with one stone: improving writing; boosting confidence; thickening skin; enhancing personal taste/style; reading everything you can get your hands on; broadening your knowledge of classics, bestsellers, and curiosities alike...

Dena Pawling said...

I'm an attorney so stuff I write is filed with the court and becomes a PUBLIC document. It's so much fun – NOT – to have a judge read my stuff in open court, with all my colleagues present [we all know each other, it's a small legal community], and tell everyone it sucks. Every time opposing counsel sneers at me during oral argument, or a judge benchslaps me, I learn something new [sometimes all I learn is how to grow thicker skin]. Usually we laugh about it later.

I've never wilted or cried in open court, a skill I thank a former law professor [who not coincidentally was also a judge] taught me a loooooong time ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was in law school. He made all of us second-year students stand in class to recite Constitutional Law cases while the other students stared at us [thankful it wasn't their turn] and he grilled us on what the cases stood for. And we had to know the names of all the justices who were on the supreme court at the time the case was decided, which president appointed them, their political persuasion, etc. Then we had to recite our opinion on how the CURRENT supreme court would have decided the same case, and why. We stood on shaky legs and did our best. I did fight back tears in this class the very first time I was called to stand and recite. After about the fourth recitation, I was actually able to [nervously] argue back with the judge/professor.

But then and now, I keep my eye on the bottom line. If I win the argument, I don't care how much it sucked to get there. And about 85% of the time, I win. Sometimes I know I'll lose, because some cases you just lose, and my goal in that argument is to present something to make the judge think hard about it, and make opposing counsel nervous about losing. So even when I lose, I win :)

Bottom line, which I've done for writing also, is to find what you consider a relatively safe environment [my husband's first comment over a year ago when he read the first chapter of my current WIP, was “I love you, but I don't wanna read this until you fix it” so I don't recommend spouse, because you have to see that person every day], put yourself out there, and allow yourself to mess up. Send only one chapter, or a short story, to someone you trust, and give specific instructions like: 1) tell me what you LIKE first, 2) tell me if you like my MC, why or why not, and 3) tell me TWO things you didn't like, and why. You can also start by sending it to yourself and then rip yourself apart. I found a crit partner at my local writing group who's at the same stage I am, so we both feel obligated to say nice things as well as suggestions for improvement. That helps, and as you grow together and learn to trust each other, you can say things like one recent comment - “WTF happened here?” - and you don't cringe like you would have done a few months previously.

And remember the bottom line, which presumably is that you want to be published. You'll still have folks who don't like your work, but YOU were published, so you won, and neener neener neener [technical legal term] to all those folks who said you sucked.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Check out the Insecure Writers Support Group at

I have the opposite problem – I can't wait for other people to read my work, whether it's ready or not. My wife is my best judge, pointing out weaknesses and heaping praise on the good stuff. She's the one I trust to tell me when it's ready.

Anonymous said...


I want you for my lawyer. What a marvelous professor you had. I'll even consider moving to your state, depending on where you live. There are a select few states I would decline. No offense.

Anonymous said...

Not long ago, Jo Bourne posted on the Lit Forum that she was getting a bunch of one star reviews on GoodReads. It turns out a bunch of other historical authors were getting the same reviews by the same reviewers. They were posting just enough good reviews to stay under the radar, but they were obviously troll accounts. All were news and reviewed a massive number of books in a short amount of time.

Normally she doesn't pay much attention to negative reviews. Not everyone is going to like your book. But a flood of bad reviews in two days is a red flag. Her publisher finally convinced GoodReads to look into it and they agreed they were bogus reviews.

Not all critiques, good or bad are genuine. You need to learn which ones are valuable and when you find a good crit partner, keep them close.

Second, if you ask for advice, be gracious.

I used to have one woman who critiqued my short stories and she just didn't get them. They always had a surprise, twist ending and she invariably complained that I should have explained up front that the story was taking place in Atlantis, or whatever. Well, duh, If I explained up front, it kind of ruins the whole surprise ending.

I was always gracious to her for taking time to read and comment, but I did ease out of that group.

I've gotten to the point I don't critique anyone I don't know. I offered some advice to someone who wanted a critique on her bit involving a horse and the piece was awful and not realistic. I tried to explain kindly why it wouldn't work and her loyal fans attacked en masse. For months after that, she linked to my blog and encouraged her minions to stop by and harass me. I had to keep deleting their very nasty remarks. I don't even remember the woman's name now, but I can't help but think that if an agent went by her blog and saw what she was doing, they wouldn't be terribly impressed.

Bottom line, I think you just need to keep looking until your find the right support group. You definitely need to group a tough hide. Rejection is part of the journey. Dejection is a choice.

Unknown said...

I sympathize with your anxiety. What I found helped me the most was identifying the source of anxiety--why you're so nervous. For me, it revolves around plot and revision. IThe best advice I most recently received came from my first writing mentor (who I returned to after many years--go back to your roots, they're the best). She said, "You're anxious because you're not writing a plot. You're writing a succession of scenes. This happens, then that happens, then that happens--that's not a plot." That helped IMMENSELY since I felt I saw the big picture and where I was making my mistakes.

I'm still anxious whenever I revise work. Terrified, really. In my head, it converts to whether I'm good enough. It's personal instead of objective (which would be better).

The weirdest, but possibly most helpful, way to get out nervous energy for me is to go to hockey games. I'm dead serious. I always write infinitely better in bad weather. Plus, my geriatric team sucks right now, and yelling at the players (or our opponents) gets out so much negative energy. After every game, I'm able to write/edit for a few hours uninterrupted, and that work is almost always my best, needing the fewest revisions. Sometimes I bring my notebook to write in between periods.

Speaking of anxiety-killing, I have 3 hours until I see our turnpike rivals decimate us. Time to pull out my Devils jersey and cough drops!

Susan Bonifant said...

Practice is right up there with hydrating and sleeping enough when it comes to making everything better.

I think the most insecure time is not when you're exposing your ideas, but when you are not sure of the voice you're using to do it. Finding your voice, even if you open a journal every day and tell it what happened on the way to work, can make you as easy to read as you are to listen to.

But in the meantime, I would offer that the more you think of your writing the less you will bristle at reader critique, even if you're at the other end of that correlation right now.

Theresa said...

I love how Julie Weathers summed up the rejection/dejection thing.

It is key to have at least one person read your draft before it goes out to an agent or editor. Choose that person wisely--ideally it should be someone working in the same genre--and be specific about the kind of critique you are looking for.

Writing is a long process, getting published takes even longer. It's not for the faint of heart.

Roslyn Reid said...

you're exactly right, jet. it's like jumping into a tub of ice water - that first step is a doozy, but after the initial pain & trauma, you get numb. :)

Sam Mills said...

If you are horrified at the thought of a beta reader or agent looking at your work (I used to flush with humiliation if anybody GLANCED at my open Word doc), then you are not ready for it to be published and in the hands of the public! So pay attention to the good advice above and work on growing a thick skin first.

I love that there are many avenues to publication, but it almost seems like getting in *too* quickly deprives authors of skin-thickening years of rejection. I believe this is partly why I see more author meltdowns in the self-pub realm. Some folks go in with a level head and a career plan. Others nervously release their first, un-critiqued baby into the wild and then discover they can't handle a bad review. (Plenty of house-published authors also lose their cool in the Twitter and blog realms, too, so the process isn't foolproof!)

DLM said...

I thought of one other thing to focus on - the person you DREAM of reading your book. That someone you will never meet, perhaps many years down the road, who will fall in love and for whom your story will have the deepest meaning.

For me, that's a kid at some great-aunt's house, no WiFi available, glumly perusing her dusty bookshelves, who picks up The Ax and the Vase and reads it again and again for the next forty years. Who learns about Frankish history, or becomes the professor dispelling notions about Merovingian heresies, or who just comes to love histfic in much the same way I did. Who falls in love a little with someone else because they read this obscure book he or she loves.

THAT is a reader who doesn't make me vulnerable: but is my very reason for writing. And why else do we do this but to be storytellers?

Indulge the fantasy of who will love you, maybe even why - the same reasons you loved your own story, had to tell it. It's the point of all this in the end.

Elissa M said...

All of the above advice is great for helping to grow that necessary thick skin all performers and artists need.

Fear of having someone read your work is basically the same as stage fright. You want the audience to love your performance (you) and you're terrified they won't. You're not good enough. You'll never be good enough. You might as well pack up and go home.

What helps me is realizing that nothing I write is perfect, and drafts are far less perfect than polished work. Also, what I think is polished usually isn't half as shiny as I believe.

Sometimes when I watch a dance routine in an old Fred Astaire movie, I can see the scuff marks on the floor from all the dozens of times he practiced that particular number. If ol' Fred didn't think his work was perfect the first 30 times, why should I think mine is?

The other issue (besides perfection) is work. Pulling even one draft out of my psyche is exhausting. I don't know how I can do it more than once. A (large) part of me wants to believe it's fine the way it is so that I won't HAVE to do it again. I don't want another person to read it and pop that little bubble, because then I'll have to go back and fix it.

So ask yourself, is it really fear of rejection that makes you hesitate to expose your writing, or is it fear of the work it will take to improve? I honestly think fear of the work is why a lot of people give up. It just seems too damn hard to do what it takes to get better.

Back to Fred. Ginger Rogers once commented about them practicing until her feet bled. I keep that in mind whenever I think writing is hard. Criticism hurts, but at least it doesn't make you bleed.

Dena Pawling said...

Hi Julie - I'm in Southern California. If you watched the Rose Parade on New Year's Day, you might remember Bob Eubanks saying it was 36 degrees in Pasadena. For those of us in Southern California, that is COLD. [Yes, we're babies when it comes to weather.] During that cold snap, we had a few inches of snow at lower elevations [meaning where it never snows] and the police had to rescue 130+ motorists from the highways.

When I started law school, my family and friends thought I was nuts. I'm not the in-your-face kind of person, aka shark. I hated confrontation, I wanted can't-we-all-just-get-along. I thought I'd get some job reviewing documents or drafting wills or something like that.

So to give myself a taste of court, since I'd never be caught dead in one, I took a trial practice class, and in my last semester I asked a Public Defender friend of mine if I could clerk in her office for a semester.

I loved it.

So when the great state of California committed insanity and issued me a license, my first job was making court appearances for attorneys who didn't have time to go to court. That morphed into a job where I'm in court making a fool of myself in trial most mornings, and in the office making a fool of myself drafting briefs in the afternoon.

I still love it.

Currently my practice is 75% foreclosures and evictions. One of my colleagues, when asked what he does for a living, says “I make homeless people.” It's not as glamorous as Public Defender/criminal law, but it gets me in court every day. Eviction court is home to some of the funniest [and sometimes the saddest] stuff. Like Dave Barry says, “I am not making this up.” I write about it on my blog, and my current WIP includes some of the antics I've endured, and caused, in court.

You don't have to move here and buy investment property so you can hire me to evict your deadbeat tenants. WHEN my book is published [I'm thinking positive] in about two years or so, you can just buy a copy, leave an honest review, and tell a friend. That'll be enough for me :)

Megan V said...

As a writer (and brand new attorney), I'm with Dena on this one. Keep your eye on the bottom line. It's your life raft when the whirlpool of sharks appear. Sure, the bottom line is tough to reach. You might get a few chunks taken out of you along the way. But that's what the life buoys are for. AKA set little goals along the way and make sure you've got someone on standby ready to drag you to safety.

Every time you successfully complete a little goal you build up your own confidence. Every time you fail it's your rescue team that will keep you from drowning, build up your confidence, and knock you back into the water if your confidence turns to arrogance.

Janet Reid said...

Gotta tell ya, some of the posts on Dena Pawling's blog are REALLY hilarious

DLM said...

Dena's blog is funny, but hit that link to Tank the Dog at your peril. I'm still weeping.

Dena Pawling said...

OMG Janet! I've had more hits in the last 12 hours than I've had in the entire life of the blog until now! Is this my 15 minutes of fame? I was hoping for that on release day. I hope you haven't jinxed it :)

I guess I need to learn how to update my blog with more stuff. It took me hours just to figure out what I've got so far.

DLM - My oldest son is in the Navy. I have several military-type things I need to learn to add. I cried when I read Tank the Dog also.

Cheyenne said...

A wealth of fantastic advice here already! I just wanted to add that I feel your pain. I'm a people-pleaser and Type-A so I find it very difficult to open emails that contain feedback. But I've been working at it for several years now and the thing that gets me through (apart from my burning desire to write and get my stories out there) is keeping an envelope of printouts of all the complimentary feedback, words of love, and support for my writing, whether it's a tweet that really boosted me, or feedback from a crit partner, or feedback from a class or forum responder. When I get those harsh reactions and even the occasional, "I hated this" (which as someone pointed out, is inevitable), I read through the positives and remind myself that some do enjoy and even love what I've written. It's really helped me, even just knowing that envelope is there :)

Carolyn Haley said...

Stephen King once wrote an article (and stupid me didn't save it, and now I can't find it again) wherein he suggested that you show your stuff to 10 people. If any cluster of them agrees on a point, pay attention. Everything else, you're free to ignore. My experience has borne this out. The most frustrating and painful thing I've found about both being critiqued and publishing is that EVERY SINGLE READER will have a different take on your work. It's stunning, sometimes, how far off their reaction or interpretation is from what you intended! So, as others have mentioned, the only way to survive being read is to focus on the work as a craft. Writing is both an art and a craft, and we all must learn its various steps and techniques. What we share is the compulsion to create it and desire for an appreciative audience. Half the battle is finding that appreciative audience. Unless you compose something of universal appeal, you will have to find your audience. Then the appreciation will flow. Until then, lots of bumps and hurts. Entering the arena with this understanding makes the process a lot easier, and you can build up calluses faster.

DLM said...

Dena, that happened to my blog when LeVar Burton retweeted a link to his Reading Rainbow reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas last year; fun! I know Janet's been to my blog for Gossamer and Penelope pics, and laughed at at least one other post; she is a generous woman - who, yes, appears to be the most amazing time manager in the history of the world.

Hey, the Queen of the Known Universe doesn't aspire to her throne without reason. I'd hoist her on a buckler for the role!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

The comment likening this fear to stage fright struck a chord with me. I did a lot of amateur theater once, and a very talented friend explained that it's all about attitude. Some people get on stage and are horrified, even if they're "third spear carrier from the left." They're thinking, "Oh no! Someone might look at me!" He always turned it around, walking out there and saying to himself, "I'm going to MAKE them look at me." There's a story, probably apocryphal but still illuminating, that when Olivier arrived at the theater before a show he'd go out on stage, stair at all the empty seats, and say to himself, "You people are going to see a better performance than you deserve!"

Janice Grinyer said...

SO strongly advise you to first read "The Two Parts of Brave", Janet Reids post from November 08, 2007, if you haven't already.

An excerpt -

"And here's where the second part of bravery comes in.
You don't collapse into tears.
You don't give up.
You go home and you look at those notes and you remember that you want to write, and you want to be published and no one, not even a snotty New York agent dressed in black is going to stand in your way.
You start in again.

You are one of the bravest people I've ever seen. Even if no one else ever knows it, you do. And don't forget for even one minute that I know it too.

Now get back to work."

From someone who is still learning, I would strongly suggest you keep reading this blog to overcome your fear. The advice, encouragement, and knowledge here is what keeps this Timber Cruiser on task to pursuing her first love - Writing. Learning about the process of publishing way before I am ready to have anything published is what has kept me on task. Last year I finally found a small group of Beta readers who know how to dissect a piece without destroying the person who wrote it - this is an important trait to have as a Beta reader. Im even more happy to say I have found an editor who has a Masters in Library Science and is willing to process my work without huge costs - I have confidence in my work now as its not as "raw" as it could be. And even though I already have been through college and then some, I am signed up for yet another basic Grammar & Punctuation online class through a University so that I can be a work in progress myself.

My confidence in working in Forestry (working vast miles of forest!) for decades comes from being prepared. Having confidence for someone else to read my fictional work is also from the same concept - being prepared. You have a great start just by reading Janet Reid's words, as I have found her knowledge online to be one of the best in the Field.

Best wishes to you and your writing!

AJ Blythe said...

I have a saying stuck next to my computer:

The most painful thing to experience is not defeat but regret.

Don't let the thought of people reading your work defeat you!