Jackie Hosking Networking column 3Showing Your Writing to Others

by Jackie Hosking


Here's a question: why do you write?

And here's another one: who reads it?

When I was seventeen, I wrote a poem, my first poem that was not set as part of the school curriculum. I'd been reading something by Lewis Carroll and I'd also just finished "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett and I felt compelled to write a poem where every line contradicted itself. It was a challenge that I set myself - just for fun. The poem began:

A Christmas tree stood on the beach
Within my grasp but out of reach

I completed the poem a few days later, during an English lesson, and was so thrilled with it that I immediately jumped up from my chair and thrust it under the nose of my teacher. I stood beside him, trembling as he read and when he finished, he handed it back to me and said dismissively, "I wrote something very similar when I was in love."

I was reminded of this incident while answering a questionnaire recently. The question I was asked was:

"Do you remember the first time you showed your writing to someone? Did their reaction have an impact on you?"

My answer was, yes I do remember and yes his reaction did have an impact on me. I didn't show my writing to anyone else for seventeen years. Since answering that question though, a million more have flowed. Why was I affected so adversely? Why did I need his approval? Who did I write it for anyway? And here's what I've discovered. "Consequence", the title of the poem, began as a personal challenge and I loved every minute that I worked on it. I was present in the moment - I was truly living. But it wasn't enough. I needed to share.

Let me explain - with an analogy, 'cause I like analogies. Writing is a bit like giving birth only more painful! You grow your story or your poem or your rant inside you, and eventually it has to come out. You have a birth - day and you celebrate. You are thrilled with your creation - your baby - no matter how ugly it is. But here's where the similarities end. In the world of writing, everyone's a critic and to survive you need to grow, borrow or steal a very thick skin. It took me seventeen years to grow mine but eventually after actually giving birth three times, I had the guts to show someone else what I'd written. His reaction was quite different and that's why you're reading about it today.

So who reads your writing? Have you taken the plunge and submitted your work to a competition or a magazine or your local newspaper? Have you been rejected?

Rejected. Now there's a word. Let's look at some of the words that are tossed around the writing world shall we?

From The Concise Oxford Dictionary

Submit: When we submit our work what exactly does that mean? Here's one definition - To give away, resign oneself, yield, cease or abstain from resistance. To surrender. Of course I've chosen the third definition to make my point but you get my point.

Rejection: Sent back as not to be accepted. Vomit! (Hmmmm)

Acceptance: Favourable reception; approval, belief, toleration. Isn't that what all want? And wasn't that was what I was looking for all those years ago?

The thing is, as writers, we set ourselves apart and yet we desperately seek acceptance, so to write and not submit, in my opinion, is to live only half a writer's life.

So I ask again. Who is reading your writing?

I'll bet you've guessed by now what your homework is. Go on. Don't be afraid. You have absolutely nothing to lose. What's the worst than can happen? Your work is rejected? So what! Think of it this way. Rejected or not it has been caressed by another's eyes. You wouldn't hide a real baby from the world so don't deny yourself.

Last year I was asked to participate in The Overload Poetry Festival. I was invited to read my poetry alongside real poets such as Graeme Kinross-Smith, Matt Hetherington and Kerry Scuffins. How I got to be invited is another story; suffice to say, I was extremely flattered not to mention extremely petrified. But I did it, not because I think my work is brilliant but because I didn't want to deny myself the experience and isn't that what life is all about - experience?

So take the plunge. Deny yourself no longer!

Okay, before I go, I'd like to share with you the rest of my first rejected poem - "Consequence"

Now be gentle with me - I was only seventeen…


A Christmas tree stood on the beach
Within my grasp but out of reach.
And so I asked a maiden fair
If she could see it standing there.
Her loud reply I could not hear
Although she said it very clear
And so I watched her disappear
Into the night, into the day.
And then I looked to Hell to say
Dear God the moon is boiling hot,
It chills my bones and that is not
The only thing I have to say
And so I turned and walked away.

A year or two has passed by me
And slipped behind the Christmas tree
Standing there all charred and black
Quite in my way but off the track
That I have chosen to explore
But it's too short and what is more
It's far too long for I can see
The end of it ahead of me.
And so I'll sit while I decide
If it's too long or short or wide
Or whether I'll just go and hide,
Yes that seems the thing for me
And so I rested by the tree.

I rested for a while or so
How long exactly I don't know.
I sat around and passed the time
As that is all I have that's mine.
For time is just a passing phase
That can be passed in many ways.
It can be served and wasted too
If that's what you choose to do.
But that decision's up to you
But here I sit and here I'll stay
Because it seems the safer way.
I'd rather sit upon the fence
Than take the risk of consequence.

© copyright Jackie Hosking



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