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.