Walking Naked Into the Spotlight: Rewards and Terrors of Publishing Our Writing

I originally wrote this piece as a starting point for a community discussion here on Brave and Reckless about what it means to put ourselves out there as writers.  It is my opinion that we risk both our writing egos and often pieces of our soul when we publish our writing.  I would love to hear about your experiences.  What has been rewarding?  What has been challenging?  What fears do you still need to overcome?

My first creative writing class.  We have submitted single pieces for small group workshop but it is time for full class workshop.  6 to 8 pages of writing.  I mull it over and finally decide to submit some of the writing I have been working on about PTSD. About my experiences as a sexual abuse survivor.  I know it is a risk.  Most of my classmates are 18 to 22. The material workshopped so far has mostly been fiction but poetry and prose are my primary language. I do not sugar coat my life.  Even the pieces told from third person are intense.  Visceral.  This is deliberate—PTSD is experienced in the body, not just the mind.  I want the reader to understand this.  To experience this.  My story telling is not linear.  PTSD is not linear.  Healing is not linear.  It feels like a sine wave to me.  I know it will be challenging for my classmates .  I decide to be brave.  I decide to be reckless.  I submit these pieces of my soul. Then I wait anxiously for the written feedback we will receive before class then the more unnerving experience of the in-class workshop where I am only allowed to be the fly on the wall, the elephant in the middle of the room, silent. 

Much of the written feedback from my classmates is technical.  “Show don’t tell.”  Disagreement erupts about my choices of line breaks—the class is split on whether they are too choppy or not choppy enough.  One of classmates feels like my titles are misleading.  I roll my eyes a little at this one.  “The Name They Call Her” is about the experience of being called bitch at age 12, at age 16 simply because I tried to claim my body for myself.  Child Welfare was the name of the class I was sitting in when the fateful film was shown. Another suggests economy of words—probably the most helpful feedback I receive the whole semester and try to put into practice.  Several thank me for tackling such difficult terrain and talk about how the pieces made them feel.  This is gratifying, eases some of my anxiety.

The feedback that has stood out for throughout the months is “A suggestion for this piece is to vary the emotional experiences of the characters. Allow them to sometimes feel happy and sometimes sad, sometimes angry and sometimes at peace. The reader will be pulled into the piece more if the subjects of the stories are multi-dimensional.”  I am sure this feedback is well intended.  Perhaps even helpful if I had more emotional distance from the material.

But all I can hear ringing in my ears is “I would like you and your poems better if you smiled more.”

© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

14 thoughts on “Walking Naked Into the Spotlight: Rewards and Terrors of Publishing Our Writing

  1. In my opinion. Those are 3 very subjective words. Don’t change a thing unless YOU want to. There are those who will enjoy your poetry / writing in its current form. I get being critiqued but not necessary for your art/creative outlet. Continue walking naked!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As a new blogger I find it terrifying putting new blog posts out there. It surprised me quite how scary it would be! Thankfully I haven’t had any bad experiences yet but am still very new. I enjoy reading your blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I generally find that people are very kind with their feedback but some days we put ourselves out there more than others. No matter how long I have been here, I still get anxious about putting certain piece up for public viewing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel like sometimes when we write, people only want to hear happy or funny or inspirational. When we go deep or we reveal hard truths, people aren’t as open and the critical comments are more likely. I also notice a steep decline in interest in any of my writing that is considered “negative.” My lighthearted writing and funny stuff tends to be much more well received. This is just my experience but I wonder if there is truth to it or it’s just my particular audience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I posted a piece this week that I was worried was going to alienate readers. Much to my surprise, it was very positively received. It can be hard to predict. What I am very conscious of as a reader, is that somehow liking something or commenting when someone has laid their deepest, darkest pain out there can feel disrespectful. Or people don’t know what to say. I have written on more than one occasion, “My like means I see you, I hear you, I honor your pain” because I didn’t want them to think I liked that they were in pain.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s how I feel when I write… naked. To write is to reveal the most intimate side of your personality to strangers and often times your own family. You take a chance hoping you will be well received for your excellent writing; because let’s be honest, we all look for praise because it boosts our ego as writers to know we are good. Also, that ego boost helps to a certain point, it helps you write even better and with confidence, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would love to read that paper one day. PTSD affects so many people in so many ways. I don’t have it but would love to learn about how it affects people to understand them better. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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