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Aftermath

2015 August 20

mrs image

 

 

Chances are, if you read this blog, you already know this, but I got published in Buzzfeed earlier this week, and it’s kind of a big deal. For me. And it might be uncool to admit that, but I think we’ve established that I’m not super cool.

So, what happens after a very popular website publishes something really personal about your life?

Well, maybe I’ll start with what happens before, since a lot of people have asked. I’ve been writing as a hobby for a long time. It’s a way to make sense of my thoughts. I’ve dabbled in fiction here and there, but it’s not something I’ve ever really gotten the hang of. But the idea of writing about myself always seemed narcissistic and weird. I’m a middle-class white woman from the suburbs–what could I possibly contribute to the world? But after years of blogging and writing in notebooks, I took an essay-writing class at Grub Street and started to think, hey, maybe I could write some essays!

So, I did. And then I started researching. The nonfiction market is a VERY different market than fiction, turns out. When you’re a beginning fiction writer, you send your work to dozens of literary journals and then wait. And wait. And wait some more. And then start getting rejections. And then do it all again! With nonfiction, the response time is quicker, and though rejection is still very much a part of the process, at least it happens faster. Also, the venues are different. While many lit journals do publish essays, popular websites and magazines ALSO publish essays, so it’s a little easier (in my opinion) to find a home for your piece.

It took me a long time to write the essay that got published. It went through many drafts, several workshops with my writing group, and lots of index cards and scrap paper. It was hard to write about. In many ways, the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Which is maybe why it was successful.

When I was finally satisfied with what I had, I sent it out. And got rejected. 3 times. But the fourth time was a charm, and it was really great to work with Buzzfeed. My editor there was responsive and savvy. She gave me general ideas of how to improve the piece, then worked with me on further edits. It was definitely a very positive first publication experience. And it was super interesting to be on the other side of the desk, so to speak, since I’m usually the one doing the editing.

I got so caught up in the writing and the submitting that I became a little divorced (ha) from the subject matter. But after it got accepted, I started to worry. Was this okay? Was it okay to put my life on display like this? I tried to make it as vague as possible, with respect to the other people involved, but of course, since the subject was my name, it couldn’t be entirely anonymous. Luckily, it’s a really common name.

But at the end of the day, I wrote it because I wanted people to read it. I wanted to be transparent and honest. I wanted other people who’ve gone through this experience to read it and feel like someone understood where they were coming from, because I really haven’t felt that way myself.

The response has been amazingly humbling and crazy. People I haven’t spoken to in years, people I’ve never met, family, friends–they’ve all been so incredibly kind and supportive. I don’t even know how to respond because nothing seems adequate. Honestly, the whole experience, while awesome, has been emotionally draining, too. It hasn’t been all champagne and sparkles. I’ve wanted, for as long as I can remember, to be published. And now I am. And that’s huge! But it doesn’t mean I’m fixed. I’ve come a long way and I’ve accomplished things, but I’m still sad. I’m sad every day. But it helps to know that I have so many people behind me, and that maybe I can hack it at this writing thing after all.

So thank you for reading and for commenting and for being my friend.

And if you’re a writer, keep writing. Keep writing what you need to write, especially if it’s really, really hard and scary and discouraging. Because it’s worth it, and no one can tell your story but you.

7 Responses Post a comment
  1. August 20, 2015

    It was a wonderful essay- I thought you did a great job writing on a tough, personal topic.

  2. Kyley permalink
    August 20, 2015

    And if you’re a writer, keep writing. Keep writing what you need to write, especially if it’s really, really hard and scary and discouraging. Because it’s worth it, and no one can tell your story but you.

    This is going on the bulletin board above my desk. Right next to picture of my grandparents, my brother and me as babies, and my ‘don’t panic’ sticker. Because I couldn’t think of a better thing to read just before sitting down to write.

  3. August 21, 2015

    “And if you’re a writer, keep writing. Keep writing what you need to write, especially if it’s really, really hard and scary and discouraging. Because it’s worth it, and no one can tell your story but you.”

    LOVE THIS.
    (Also love that Kyley also linked to it.)

    It’s a brave thing to put your neck out there with personal essays. You did it and you did it well. Proud of you!

  4. Raquel permalink
    August 21, 2015

    I loved reading about the process just as much as I loved reading the original piece.

    I have always felt that telling other people stories is like giving them a gift. Keep on sharing your gift with others. <3

  5. Christine permalink
    August 21, 2015

    Thanks, Jill. I was curious about the process, etc. Please NO sad!! And thrill in the lifetime ahead to write. We all want to read more.

  6. Allison permalink
    September 4, 2015

    Thank you for this piece. I, too, lost my husband and dog in a similar fashion. I spent two years in a total daze – crying in public, oversharing with anyone who would listen, reading every book at the library about divorce and infidelity. The only relief I felt during those two years was when I read the stories of others who’d been there. And you’re right. Once you live through your worst nightmare, you realize how strong you are. I wish you nothing but the best and thank you for sharing a very painful slice of your life.

  7. Rachel permalink
    September 11, 2015

    Yes yes yes! Jill, you rock for putting this out in the world. It has been a real joy to hear your writing over the last few months and get to know your voice. And nice to see you again last night. I love it. Congratulations again :)

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