For yeah write’s fourth birthday, I am reposting last year’s birthday post.
For yeah write’s third birthday, I present to you “A Series of Embarrassing Admissions:”

Erica is going to kill me for admitting this, but the first time I linked up with yeah write I didn’t really read the instructions. Breezing through the intro post, the prestige of this place impressed me. Unlike other sites, I could tell this one meant business; it was intelligent and cool with a side of quirky, just like me. Well, just like I was trying to be. I wrote what I felt was a funny/heartfelt story and linked it up.

I won third place my first time on the grid. Though this thrilled me, I did not make the invitational, and my feelings bruised over that more than I cared to admit. What did those posts have that mine didn’t? I sat down and reread them, then read the instructions.

Was my post … sappy? A little disjointed?

From that moment on, I began trying to evaluate my own writing with a more objective eye, and let me tell you – it was not easy.

– – –

This is also embarrassing to admit, but throughout my childhood and into my teen years, adults labeled me a “gifted” writer.

Cue the rolling of the eyes …

School, testing, and overeager teachers wishing to live out their unfulfilled dreams gave me a serious creative complex. I can testify without a doubt that telling a child he/she is gifted is bad for that child’s development.

I didn’t need to try! I was gifted!

What they didn’t tell me was that when you stop trying, you stop developing. And then you freak out, because you’re gifted! Everything you do needs to be amazing!

It’s a lot of pressure for a kid, especially a neurotic one.

Also, may I just say that big egos do not mix well with writing? Writing is a continual exercise in flogging your ego, then spoon-feeding it yams, and then letting someone else beat it with a sock full of nickels.

So following this childhood on which way-too large expectations were laid, I dove headlong into academia, dissecting and explaining literature with a dash of irony and wit. I was good at it, and that became my security blanket.

I ran from creative writing for the following ten years. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right?

– – –

I spent the first six months of blogging trying to become famous so I could quit my miserable day job. That’s right, I thought I would be a financially successful blogger just because I wrote a lot of academic papers in college.

Cue more rolling of the eyes …

To that end, I wrote to people-please. And the result was a bunch of crappy writing. Stumbling upon yeah write taught me this.

I discovered that if I wanted to become a better writer, I would have to challenge myself. I would have to risk (gulp) failure. Yeah write offered me a place in which to do so, in the company of writers whose work soared above and beyond the bloggers I had read up until that point.

Week after week I showed up, relishing the community, the support, and the anticipation. I began to learn that my opinion of my writing was higher than the quality warranted. I began stretching myself. As I started making changes to my writing, I began doing worse in each challenge.

Yep, worse.

This is called “growth.”

After a few months, however, I began to not care so much that I wasn’t winning. I didn’t care that I wasn’t becoming a famous blogger or being offered a book contract. My insecurities shrunk.

I wanted to become a better writer. I wanted to rediscover the voice I had lost after years of burying myself academic writing. I wanted to meet people who cared about quality as much as I did.

When I earned my first editors’ pick, it felt like something inside me unlocked. I could finally write with freedom from my own expectations. They aren’t all winners, but that’s not what matters to me anymore. What matters is that I’m in the game, trying and improving.

When I got laid off this summer, Erica let me join the team of editors. Though I don’t always feel worthy of this honor, I am immensely proud to be a part of something in which I so strongly believe.

Yeah write taught me to risk. Forgive my sappiness, but happy birthday, you beautiful community, you. And thank you.



Happy Birthday to the Place that Saved My Writing — 50 Comments

  1. I understand this completely! I stumbled upon Yeah Write too and thought, OK, it’s a popularity contest. If there is any contest at all, it is a contest with yourself; to improve the quality of writing week after week and to learn from those who can do teach you. Many times, it is the reason I keep on writing.
    Bill Dameron recently posted…Word FishersMy Profile

  2. I have been LOVING these birthday posts from you guys. It’s so cool to see how you joined the community and what your experience has been from the beginning. I have yet to earn any badge besides a cute little penguin but I’m learning so much in the process and meeting some amazing writers.

    P.S. I still say you’re gifted. 🙂
    Jen Brunett recently posted…Family Car ConfessionsMy Profile

  3. “Writing is a continual exercise in flogging your ego, then spoon-feeding it yams, and then letting someone else beat it with a sock full of nickels.” Hahahaha!

    Thanks for sharing your writing history. It’s always helpful to read about the creative journeys of other writers – especially the ones I respect.

    I’m so glad you’re here!
    Karen recently posted…How I Became A HustlerMy Profile

    • Isn’t it just like that, though? 😉

      And I love reading about other people’s yeah write journeys, as well as how they came to be writers. It’s always fascinating, because no one ever chooses to be a writer because “mom and dad really pressured me.”

  4. I loved this – I can relate to parts of it (except placing on the Yeah Write grid 🙂 ) I’ve lost myself in writing before, writing for others, and then finding my way back. And I’m with you that winning isn’t the purpose of writing. You can’t lose with the support of a great community.
    JannaTWrites recently posted…Montezuma Well – HaikuMy Profile

    • So glad you were able to find encouragement here. We have all been new and struggling at one time, but those of us still around have persevered through those shaky times. Keep it up! You’ll find your voice.

  5. I think the visual of spoon-feeding my ego, then letting someone beat it with a sock full of nickels is permanently etched into my mind! But this is one of the things I love about your writing – you can make me laugh out loud and break my heart in the same post.

    I’m so happy to have met you and the rest of this awesome bunch of editors!
    Suzanne recently posted…Birthday wishes (or, what yeah write means to me)My Profile

  6. I’ve never heard of yeah write before, but after reading your post I will have to check it out.
    I was very interested in your experience of being told as a child that you were gifted. I had a similar experience, as did one of my daughters. With me, it was art I was supposedly gifted at, with my daughter it was swimming. She and were just discussing the swimming today, and she felt that it created too much pressure for her when people praised her so young. She couldn’t live up to it. I think I felt similarly – I grew up in a very small community and moving away in my teens, I discovered that there were many others as good at art as I was, or better. It was confusing and for me, demoralising. I’d assumed my path in life was clear and suddenly I had no clue what to do. It took me years to realise that I could choose a new path.
    I’m glad you found a way past your block, and here’s to lots more success for you!
    Yvonne recently posted…Do Judge a (my) Book by Its CoverMy Profile

  7. I’m so glad that I’ve stumbled upon Yeah Write in time for its birthday celebration. Getting to know the editors through their personal stories this week has been a blessing. Thaks so much for sharing.

    God bless you,
    Cheryl recently posted…A New BeginningMy Profile

  8. I’ve enjoyed the few Yeah Write competitions I’ve joined. I do feel, slightly, like an outcast each time I join; both because I’m so uninvolved previously, and because I’m a guy. Yes, I said it. There is a selective and insular quality in blogging (and blogging groups especially) that finds camaraderie with like-minded people. And women dominate blogging, so a guy is always going to be an outcast.

    I’m sorry, your post is quite lovely. I didn’t mean to come here and vent. I like Yeah Write. I just feel…sometimes…nevermind. You have grown. I still love your writing and all the variations in your voice. And I completely agree about the academia vs. authentic voice, and I’m glad I no longer know how to write term papers.
    Chris Plumb recently posted…15 Best Non-Verbal Disney MomentsMy Profile

    • Eh, I get that, Chris. The weeks we have more men on the grid are great for the diversity, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen, so I can see how you’d feel left out. Participants ebb and flow. The speakeasy (fiction) usually has more men, though, but it’s hard to write fiction when that’s not what your readers are used to; at least, that’s what I’ve discovered.
      And venting always welcome from you. This is a safe space.

    • Oh good. You are definitely doing the right thing by cultivating perseverance in children, rather than natural ability. I am fortunate in that I have a fair amount of natural perseverance, but it took years to properly apply it.

  9. yeah Write is an amazing community, I totally agree. I’ve not written for them in ages. I got out of the habit I guess, but (when I get the book pubbed and have time for such things again) I’ll be back fer sher. Love hearing your journey.
    Beth Teliho recently posted…You Know You Want ItMy Profile

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