Finding the Courage to Write, Part 3
I mentioned a few kicks ago, that when you're new as a writer, the fear of criticism is one the greatest stumbling blocks. You don't want to tell people about a dream that might sound foolish or unrealistic. You may not want to risk criticism.
Here are a few things that I would recommend that every new writer try in order to get past those stumbling blocks.
1) Join a speech or debate team. The fear of having your writing criticized is very much like the fear of public speaking. But if you're going to be a writer, you'll need to get over those fears. By joining a group like Toastmasters, you can get practice speaking in
front of others. This experience will help prepare you to speak on panels at conferences, to give addresses at such conferences, to speak in front of television cameras when promoting books, to do public readings, and to take criticism of you and your works gracefully. Every writer should get some experience as a public speaker.
2) Join a writing group or take writing classes. Doing these kinds of activities will not only help you get your own work critiqued, it will help you build your own skills in critical analysis.
3) When you're writing, write about themes or topics that are important to you. As I mentioned, as a teen I was terrified that someone might read my work. I know the very minute that that changed. It happened like this:
I was working my way through college as a prison guard back in 1980. We had been having some racial tensions in the prison. Members of the Aryan Brotherhood had been building light-bulb bombs--putting gasoline and an oil-based glue into light bulbs, so that when a Black inmate turned on the light in his cell, it blew up.
At this time, I was put in charge of the inmates who worked in the kitchen, and shortly after starting there, I hired two Blacks as chefs. The Aryans were not pleased. One of my superiors tried to get me to fire the Blacks, and I resisted.
The next day, the Sergeant-At-Arms of the Aryan Brotherhood had a little talk with me. While one of his men sat sharpening a butcher knife, he suggested that if I didn't fire the Blacks, things in the kitchen would get "so hot that you won't be able to run out of here fast enough."
Now, I had been a meat cutter for years before taking that job in the prison. I had very strong wrists and excellent knife skills. And as I watched that Aryan sharpening his blade, I thought, "You know, I believe in racial equality. I believe in it so strongly that if these guys try to stab me, I'm going to take that knife away from them and gut them where they stand."
I of course refused to follow their advice. Later that night, me and some other officers went to their cells and escorted them to some new accommodations in the hole.
The next day I went into our kitchen's basement to fetch some supplies. When I turned on the light, a bomb went off over my head. Fortunately, the makers had put just a little too much glue in the light bulb, and the bomb fizzled.
After that, I went to work day after day knowing that I was going to be a target. I figured that it was only a matter of time before some Aryan put a little cocaine in my locker in order to frame me for selling drugs, or set off another bomb, or just stabbed me in the back. But I kept going to work, day after day.
Since then, the fear of being criticized for my writing seems like a minor thing.
Is there something you believe in strongly--racial equality, sexual equality, or protecting the environment? If so, try tapping into that with your writing.
Writing with conviction will cast out fear.