New series: Letters to Ryan

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I've recently met a young writer who just graduated high school. Apparently, I'm the first "real writer" (what does this mean?) she's ever met. Thinking back to my own days as a young adult, I would have loved for someone to come alongside me, to care about my work and to help me on my journey. So I've offered to take a look at some of Ryan's work and impart some of the "wisdom" I've accumulated over the past years. I'm going to post my e-mails to her here on my blog.

Ryan wrote last week to express a bit of nervousness at the idea of letting someone outside her family read what she had written--this was my response. 

Hi Ryan,

It's a big leap, definitely: sharing your work with someone you hardly know. As writers, our work is a part of us in a way that few other professionals understand. My husband is an engineer--if someone doesn't like his design, he doesn't feel personally rejected. He just finds a way to improve it. But as writers, if someone doesn't like our work, it doesn't feel like they don't like the work--it feels like they don't like us. Our work comprises our most private thoughts, our most vulnerable ideas. It isn't what we do; it is who we are. We put it out there, with trembling and trepidation, stripped of our usual defenses. 

Defenses. This is what you must be willing to lay down, in order to become a writer. I will tell you now that there is so far no published work of mine that I haven't been terrified to thrust forward for public consumption. Stories that touch and affect people are necessarily too raw, too honest, too naked, really. And who wants to stand naked in front of strangers? It's an odd profession I have chosen. I swing between twin poles of terror and hunger, afraid of rejection, yet craving connection. What usually wins out is the idea that something I write could possibly get a tiny hook, burr-like, into the soft parts of someone else's heart. It could lodge there. (I am remembering here the writers that have lodged their words into me, the ones that have made me feel less alone, less afraid, more okay. The ones who assured me of what it is to be human, of what it is to love, of what it is to believe. I carry these writers around with me all the time, and I return to them like touchstones. Who would I be without them? The question is unthinkable.) 

This idea is so powerful that, when I think I've really got something, I risk the rejection. 

Send me whatever you want to send me. Send me a bit that made your heart beat fast as you typed it out. I'm interested; the invitation stands. 

Thank you for reading this fairly ridiculous email. :)


1 comment:

  1. Beth this is an awesome summary of the humanity and vulnerability of writers. Since I've recently stepped out in faith on my own journey, this piece really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing.