I flunked second grade art class.
Who flunks second grade art class, where high expectations are stick figures and barely recognizable animal shaped blobs? Me, that’s who. Was I a terrible artist? No, I always loved art. My teacher told my mother that I had thrown every assignment in the trash, having determined that none of it was good enough to hand in.
Fast forward thirty years, and there I was reading my story to a room full of people I did not know, for the first time. My hands were ice cold and shaking, my voice trembled, I read too fast, scrambled a few words, and refused to meet anyone’s eye. Within a few heartbeats of the last word, I had already asked myself why I had opened my mouth, what possessed me to join a critique group, and whether my laptop would fit in the trash can.
And then something magical happened—they liked it. They actually liked my work and encouraged me to start sending queries. And it never would have happened if I hadn’t let my work go.
During this time of year many of us are preparing for contest season. This will be my second year sending my work off to Contestland, biting my nails, and waiting for calls that may, or may not, come. It took me almost four years of building up confidence to step off the cliff and see if my manuscript was ready to fly. I wish I had jumped much sooner, I have learned so much by entering contests. My writing is much stronger for it. But it’s hard to let go, isn’t it?
It makes you feel vulnerable, holding out your story—your baby—the one you’ve been carrying around in your heart, to see if it can walk. But I can tell you, from experience, it is so worth it.
As someone with pretty thin skin and an over-amplified fear of rejection, I argued with myself about whether I should bother scraping money out of our lean budget for contests. But I did. To my great surprise, I semi-finaled in the ACFW Genesis Contest, and won the Frasier Award.
Yes, it was a boost of confidence, a step forward in pursing publication and I received wonderful feedback and suggestions; but even more than that, it taught me that I can, and should, let go.
God gave me a desire to write and stories to tell, what good would it do me, or anyone else if I was afraid to let people read them?
So now instead of fearing a critique, sending off a query, or entering a contest, I have learned to release my work into God’s capable hands. Then I enjoy watching how he blesses, teaches, and transforms me through trusting him with the story he inspired in the first place.
So, go ahead, hand in your paper to The Teacher. You’ll get an ‘A’ for effort, I promise.