I did a thing. And then got slammed.
On November 25, 2020, I submitted something I wrote. It was to an online site, using a writing prompt. The parameters were pretty easy. Start with this phrase … and end with this phase… and write 1000-3000 words. So I did. I’ve never put my writing out there like that. I’ve published a ton of blog posts and a few short stories, but I have never publicly thrown down like this. I was nervous and was definitely feeling self-conscious. The story was fiction, so that was a little different for me to write, but I thought why not. I thought it would be fun to stretch myself a little bit. I thought my story was a little dark, but decent.
It felt great. I felt like I really did a good thing and was supporting myself and pushing myself. I was super proud of myself. So when I received an email a few days later with a notification that someone commented on my post, I was really excited to see what that person had to say. I read the “critique” and immediately felt like someone punched me right in the gut. You know that gut feeling, where you just want to crawl in a hole and hide. The kind where you feel it throughout your whole body. Every single inch of your body feels the shame and humiliation. The hotness of those feelings radiating throughout your body. It’s so tangible right now as I write this. That feeling sure stuck. The feeling of being so embarrassed and wondering why you even tried. Yeah, that feeling. It was gut-wrenching for sure. All the emotions circled around for days. More than days actually.
I felt like such a failure and I questioned everything about my writing. That feeling stayed with me for a while. I didn’t want to write anything. I couldn’t. It blunted my creativity for several weeks. There was nothing critique-y about it. It was pretty much a full body slam. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I have not gone back to that site. I don’t know if I will submit anything there again. I might. It will probably take a long, long time if I do. I can’t let one person’s opinion sway me from continuing.
I think about the things people say and their unsolicited opinions and advice, and I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. For example, I liken this to when someone who is trying to make some positive changes in their life. This person decides in order to change they should start working out. They buy a gym membership. It takes guts to put yourself out there. Then this person goes to the gym and gets made fun of because they are overweight or not doing an exercise correctly. The point is they showed up. They showed up to try and make some changes. They showed up to be better. Isn’t that enough?
I showed up for myself and got shot down. It took me a while to get over that. And frankly, it still stings. It stopped me in my tracks for a while., but I feel like I am back to being my “normal” self with my writing. I don’t plan to give up. I plan to keep going. I will keep writing. I will keep working at it. Why? Because I love it. Because I care about getting my words on paper and because I care about growing and stretching myself in this craft.
What you say matters. Remember that. You can inspire or you can dishearten. You can motivate or you can discourage. Think about that before you respond. You never know what someone has been through or what someone is going through. Be helpful and be positive.
If something like this has happened to you, I would love to hear how you persevered. I would love to hear how you kept going and how you are doing now. Please let me know. I love to hear from you.
Shine your light.