A Day as an Emerging Writer

March 6, 2018 § 39 Comments


A guest post from Rachel Greenley:

I didn’t realize how difficult it would be. To simply sit down. Every day. And write. To learn the novice mistakes. To correct them. To learn more novice mistakes. To correct them. It’s an endless cycle.

I don’t like calling myself an “emerging” writer. Think about what emerging means…to rise up, to come into existence, to develop. Would I call myself a “developing writer?” Apply that to another career choice—a developing plumber. A developing doctor. Who wants to take a chance on a developing anything? I’d say, “Call me back when you’re developed.”

I visually see “emerging” as a butterfly bursting from a chrysalis. When is the transformation complete? When the writer is published? When I stop making rookie mistakes? Never?

A rookie writer submits her pieces too soon. My father, a self-published author who would never call himself “emerging,” but simply a writer, reminds me that work needs to sit and season like a stew. This comment brings out the teenager in me: “I know that, dad! Everyone knows that!” But I still finish a piece at 10:01 and shoot it out across Submittable at 10:02.

The emerging writer entertains many rejections. What’s more painful—The pubs that don’t reply or the ones who reply within an hour? We knew THAT quickly you weren’t good enough.

Lynda Barry’s quote is posted at my desk: “Is it good? Does this suck?” I never know the answer for sure.

I attend literary events. I meet authors. I start to better understand the writing community. But then someone says “are you going to hear Colson Whitehead’s reading next week?” and I say, “who’s Colson Whitehead?”

I tweet about a local author’s book hoping they’ll retweet it, because I feel pressure to build a platform. The author re-tweets everyone else on Twitter except me. I read a roundtable interview with agents on how to successfully publish a memoir. “A robust platform is given equal footing with voice and story.” I need ten thousand followers. I spend a week being more active on Twitter. At the end of the week I am nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty-two followers short.

Then there’s the question of whether I’ve suffered enough. I sit in class, writing on a Lenovo Yoga while drinking Tazo ginger tea and wearing burgundy fingerless gloves woven in Peru. Do I even have a right to be here? I’m just another progressive white woman nearing fifty, writing a sad memoir. Love stories with a spouse killed by cancer are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. My teacher, a talented poet, shares her beginnings—how she wrote into the wee hours each night while raising children alone and working two jobs. Is it my imagination, or is she looking at me?

But I’m here. I’m here because the ghost of my dead husband follows me around. I’m here because outside of raising his children and a demanding corporate job, I’ve made time for writing classes at night in the damp rooms of Seattle’s Hugo House, and the subject I always write about—for fifteen years now—has been my grief. I’m here because two years ago the pounding of a voice telling me “it’s time, it’s time, if not now, when, it’s time to write his story, it’s time to write your story” sat on my shoulder, madly distracting me from staying the corporate path. I’m here because I saved and saved and saved to keep our household running for a few years so I could focus on this project. I’m here because my current husband and extended family withheld their worries, instead saying, “go, we believe in you.” I’m here because I loved a man deeply, and his life was cut short, and we didn’t say the things we should have said because we were young and naïve, and there have been days when I’ve been stuck on the cold tile floor in fetal position heaving wet grief at the regret and guilt I carry for his death. I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.

And maybe you can’t hear me. Maybe I toss in an adverb too many. Or my story doesn’t have a universal point. Or the tension isn’t building. Or a sentence that should end with a clang ends with a whoosh. Or I don’t have a platform. Or my memoir is too non-traditional. Or not traditional enough.

But here’s the thing, dear reader, dear agent, dear publisher, dear author, the story is eating me alive. The. Story. Is. Eating. Me. Alive. So, lacking skill, lacking platform, lacking a through path, I keep going. I show up. I sit down. I keep writing. And by the grace of my pen, I will get out on paper the suffocating grief within me to remember a man, a good man, a simple man, a handsome man, a dead man.

Perhaps the transformation from emerging writer to writer has already happened. More likely it never ends. It’s enough that the story rises from me, and I catch it be penned. That is my metamorphosis.

___________________________________
Rachel Greenley is a Seattle-based writer who would like you to follow her on Twitter.

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§ 39 Responses to A Day as an Emerging Writer

  • Beautiful piece. In my humble opinion, we are all continually emerging, even those of us of “a certain age.”

  • A good analysis via experience on te journey of the writer. I think that while there is a shyness toward it, it’s important not to downplay what you do—you are a writer. In every statement “emerging writer”, “developing writer”, the key term is “writer”. No need for an adjective 🙂

  • From the beginning of my writing, I was encouraged to write memoir. After reading them—the ones I loved, the ones that failed to move me—I decided I was too young to have a worthy perspective. And then I look around and I am past sixty and realize “it’s time, if not now, when, it’s time.” Thank you for encouraging that pursuit of meaning and purpose through story.

  • Just emerge & keep that going.

  • Very moved by this. Following you on Twitter! Want to read your memoir.

  • Joanne says:

    Loved the passion in this and the way you expressed it. Cheering you on!

  • A friend once said to me, “Life is a Journey.” We don’t truly “emerge” – we just continue to grow. Your piece was beautifully written. Use your voice, write from your passion. Everything else can be fixed in editing. Best wishes.

  • Reader Runner Writer says:

    Oh man. I feel this so deeply.The stories that beg to be told but the doubt and fear that pulls the reins. Glad to know it’s common, but sad to hear someone else go through it. Now stop feeling sorry and get back to writing 🙂

  • Alan says:

    I liked each and every explanations. It feels like you are already a wonderful writer.keep going with this level of writing

  • betsywin80@aol.com says:

    You touched me,Rachel. Elizabeth

    And maybe you can’t hear me. Maybe I toss in an adverb too many. Or my story doesn’t have a universal point. Or the tension isn’t building. Or a sentence that should end with a clang ends with a whoosh. Or I don’t have a platform. Or my memoir is too non-traditional. Or not traditional enough. But here’s the thing, dear reader, dear agent, dear publisher, dear author, the story is eating me alive. The. Story. Is. Eating. Me. Alive. So, lacking skill, lacking platform, lacking a through path, I keep going. I show up. I sit down. I keep writing. And by the grace of my pen, I will get out on paper the suffocating grief within me to remember a man, a good man, a simple man, a handsome man, a dead man. Perhaps the transformation from emerging writer to writer has already happened. More likely it never ends. It’s enough that the story rises from me, and I catch it be penned. That is my metamorphosis.

  • Rachel says:

    Honestly, the Brevity community is the best! I’m going to keep your supportive comments near, and whenever the self-doubt starts to tickle, I will read your kind thoughts again. Much love!

  • Peg Conway says:

    As I sit here at my desk toiling all morning on my own grief memoir (childhood mother loss), I totally relate to this post! Thank you for stating exactly how I feel.

  • Kristen Paulson-Nguyen says:

    Your post is badass! Keep going! I’m 50 and I started my memoir in 2015 because I couldn’t help it either. I’m so glad your family is supportive.

  • Colleen says:

    Ah, this is lovely! Thanks for sharing.
    I’ve followed you on twitter, too.

  • Thank you so much for this informative post it has significant meaning for my “emerging” as well. ❤

    evelyn@rhinoink.ca

    Virus-free. http://www.avast.com

    On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 5:26 AM, BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog wrote:

    > Allison K Williams posted: “A guest post from Rachel Greenley: I didn’t > realize how difficult it would be. To simply sit down. Every day. And > write. To learn the novice mistakes. To correct them. To learn more novice > mistakes. To correct them. It’s an endless cycle. I don’t li” >

  • Ed Markovich says:

    “Genius is childhood perfectly remembered” – Charles Baudelaire. There may be nothing lonelier, dear, but nothing is more important. Twain said re: death (and presumably grief), “I was dead for ages before I was ever alive, and I never experienced the least inconvenience from it.” We should all be dead but we are not – we are still here – and thankfully still writing. Know that many share your grief and all share your struggle! I pray you remember perfectly the joy of love and innocence of your past. You may be the next Proust. I recommend David Mamet’s new book (although I have not yet read it). It is about living with grief: “Chicago”

  • Asmaa Fatima says:

    Beautifully written piece.

  • SeonMee says:

    Rachel – You are so courageous for leaving the corporate world and following your heart. Your story reminds me to be thankful each day. You write with such emotion that it draws people in. Best wishes in your writing adventure.

  • Tu sinceridad es una gran cualidad, me identifico con tu escrito, tu papa me da una buena lección, hay que sazonar lo que escribimos y no tomarlo tan ala ligera. gracias

  • I think that is the nature of grief. This April my dad will have been gone 4 years. Certain songs can take me right back to that nursing home he spent hospice at. Songs him and my mother loved. It took me a few years to really move on from my grief.

    I’m sure when it’s a husband you love and cherish; those experiences can only be harder.

    But tell your story. Never know who out there needs to hear it. Someone else who is drowning in their feelings. Knowing we aren’t alone can be a life ring when we feel lost and tossed in the ocean of life.

  • I’m a new writer as well, I want to get my story out there, but have it be informational too. I understand your need to write, and I loved your post

  • failuretomom says:

    Being new to writing myself, I really related to this post. The emotions of writing, and your why, are very strong in this piece.

  • Rachel says:

    Thank you for the additional comments. They illustrate that many of us are both deep within grief, AND/OR the need to write. Write on, friends!

  • Ume Abeeha says:

    You are a strong lady, and a really good writer. I am looking forward to go through your work. 🙂

  • dazedmum says:

    Thank you for your courageous words. I’ve just started a blog and struggle with thinking of things to write or finding the courage to publish them. You’ve inspired me to keep going. Keep on writing!

  • Pfft…anyone who tells you that you are not yet a writer…obviously, they have no idea what they are talking about. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. Keep going. Write what you know. Take joy in it, let your heart break over it, give time to the epiphanies that will eventually drop on you, and above all else, write for only you. That’s all that matters.

  • Yule Augustine says:

    thank you

  • Omg this speaks to me. I loved how you used metamorphosis to show how difficult being an emerging “anything” is. The comparison is so great. Loved this . Please write only for yourself. You do not need anyone else’s stamp of approval. This is so motivation. I just started a new blog so this really helped me overcome my doubts and fears.

  • Handyman Jobs being done go to my account for more details

  • Loved it!! Please keep writting!!

  • lifewithveexo says:

    Awesome post! So relatable!

  • agingwithme.com says:

    Go girl!! Just as all motion pictures today are quickly run on cinema screens unfinished, writing, painting and all creating is never complete. Growth comes in the editing and rewrites.
    Great site!
    Andrea agingwithme.com

  • What a great post! I am in the same place with writing down a story. I am about to embark on a road trip that I’ve dreamed about for years, and I’m finally going to go to the sources and write down the story.
    I am sorry for your loss and I hope that we get to read your husband’s story soon.

  • chokodeenah says:

    Well written and very inspiring. I actually was thinking of myself as an emerging writer lol because I never took writing classes or published a book. But the thing is, I feel like I have so much to write about that’s why I decided to create a wordpress blog account. I’m gonna go brave and write even if no one reads it!!
    You inspire me, thanks Rachel!

    I invite you to check out my page and if you like what you see u can add me on Instagram @chokodeenah

  • Shawna G says:

    I loved writing when I was younger, much younger. I then started a family and got away from it for many years. I’m finding that it isn’t as easy for me now as it once was. I have decided to continue to push forward and to keep writing anyhow. Regardless of whether or not I’m at a point that people will want to read my words, I will keep writing and I will keep emerging. You are an inspiration Rachel!

  • herheadache says:

    Reblogged this on Her Headache and commented:
    Stories that won’t let their writers’ go.

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