Despite having a few accolades, I still suffer from writer’s doubt, because even though I believe my work is great, I wonder if anyone who matters in the publishing world will believe it is, and even if they will, will it be what they’re looking for? These are the times I am reminded of my third-grade teacher, Miss Cahoon (all teachers are “Miss” when you’re a little kid), told me how much she enjoyed reading my journals (which made me feel like Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).
When I was sixteen, I placed first in the fiction category in the Gulf Coast Writers Association’s “Let’s Write!” literary contest for my epic poem, “Nova” (our English class was studying Greek mythology at the time)—a piece which I received a C for because my teacher said it was “too creative.” The win not only gave me a boost because I’d beat out adults but also showed (not told) my teacher that creativity counted. I still remember my parents driving me all the way to Gulfport, Mississippi, to receive my award at a Shoney’s, where everyone seemed so old. (A lot of formal literary groups feel that way.) I still remember Miss Lebo and how welcoming she was and how disappointed I was when more than twenty years later, I learned she had passed away.
Then, just before my high school graduation, Troy Moon, a local newspaper columnist whose speech at a local school had stuck with me, recommended me for the “Mary Roberts Rinehart Award” (after reading a short story I wrote). I didn’t win, but that recommendation meant a great deal. I don’t have the original letter, but a copy of it has been preserved in my scrapbook for almost twenty years.
I don’t save every rejection, but I display my successes (frame every single certificate and hang them on your wall like doctors frame their degrees), because positivity breeds positivity. Don’t worry about getting published (but try) and for goodness sakes, definitely don’t worry about getting “likes.” I shamelessly promote my work on Facebook, and Getting published will only add to my joy. It can never be the joy.
That said, sharing what I write (but not everything I write—many publications consider something “published” even if it’s just on your personal blog of 100 followers) and getting constructive feedback, whether online or in person, may not keep the dogs from barking, but it keeps them from biting.