Today is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. I skipped last month’s post. I hope you forgive me. I can’t remember what my reason was, but I’m sure it was good. Or maybe not… Make sure to check out other writers’ posts here.
The IWSG admins decided to add a question to inspire the posts, which is such a great idea. I can only write so many posts on feeling insecure about my writing, which is pretty much a permanent state of being for me. The question this month is: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?
I began writing in grade school, but I don’t remember what I wrote back then. The first step that felt like a real step in my professional writing career took place in high school. I was admitted to a writing program for young aspiring writers called Young Chicago Authors (YCA), which is pretty big thing now in Chicago, but back then in the 90s it was just a few rooms in a rented apartment where 45 high school kids from all over the city wrote about stuff they felt were important. The lack of judgment and complete acceptance of what we wrote was freeing. We didn’t feel constrained or a need to please. We wrote to please ourselves. It was probably the best three years of my life.
One of my earliest short stories from that time, titled “Be My Valentine,” was about a high school girl who gets raped by her boyfriend. The circumstances aren’t so black and white, but it was definitely rape. More than anything though, it was a story about friendship. That story ended up winning third place at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Creative Writing Festival in 1998.
I read it now and I cringe. It is bad, filled with strange metaphors and too much description. If I were to edit it now, it would be 3-4 pages instead of 10. I guess it shows some of the improvement I’ve made in my writing, which is now much more succinct. But it does prove one thing that is still true. Twenty years later, I am still a bad writer, and maybe all writers are bad. Where my writing improves is in the edits. I strongly believe that.
The amount of necessary edits can seem overwhelming at times. Actually, most of the time. But they are necessary for my novel to be readable.
The amazing thing is (and I only realized this as I was writing this post) that rape is central to my novel as well. Although it doesn’t actually happen in the story, it’s in the past. Friendship and the power of love to heal are also important aspects.
That short story got published in a few YCA magazines, which maybe a few people still have laying around somewhere, but it was my first real success as a writer. A success that sometimes makes me think that maybe I’m not as bad a writer as I think.
I’m not the only writer that believes in editing, here’s an article I happened upon today.