This month our Rising Voices Fellows reflect on their experiences of the fellowship over the past year. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
Before this year, I had always viewed writing as a solitary process. I wrote alone, revised little and only sought feedback after a piece was complete. Rising Voices has given me the gift of community both inside and outside of the Fellowship—writing has become a collaborative process and I and my work are better for it. I’ve learned three primary lessons in this area from my peers, from my teachers, from my editors, and from my friends.
Phone a Friend. I haven’t published anything in the last few months without at least one friend giving me comments; every time, I am prouder of the edited piece than I was of the original. A fresh set of eyes is crucial in catching inconsistencies, spelling errors, and gaps in your reasoning. I remember a particular post in which I used a term that was familiar to me, but not commonly used—my peer editor was crucial in catching it, and the definition was vital to the point I made in the piece.
With all the writing I have done recently, every time I ask a friend to edit me, they ask a question that I had never considered, and force me to confront new perspectives. They point out questions that I hadn’t realized I was answering, so I can answer them better, and ask new questions to broaden my scope.
Trust. As a writer, I get very attached to my words. I turn verbiage over and over in my head, adjusting until I get a phrase I like. It’s very hard to adjust diction or an idea when confronted by (an aforementioned) friend and editor about what would make a piece better. I have often disregarded a suggestion like “consider shortening this paragraph,” only to be told later by a professional editor that I had to shorten the paragraph. I’ve learned to trust people who give me critique; most of the time, they really do know best.
People want to help you. It’s easy to feel like you’re annoying someone, especially a professional. (This is probably a gendered problem, come to think of it.) Every time I email an adult to ask for editing help for a piece whose topic I’m not well-versed in, I tend to get nervous, concerned that I’m bothering this person who I look up to. When I wrote about intersectionality, for example, one of Rising Voices’ facilitators suggested I contact a blogger who I know and admire; she was tremendously helpful, and I felt much more confident about my piece after she edited it and suggested sources.
I’ve found that people are glad to help an aspiring young feminist writer; sisterhood is powerful, and this strength of the feminist movement applies across generations and over the internet.
I was recently given the opportunity to lead a session for peers about something that was important to me. I chose to discuss blogging, and attempted to give my friends a window into what it’s like for me to write a blog post. In planning, I realized that it was imperative that I ask my friends to read and edit each other’s work; collaboration has become an integral part of the way I experience writing. I look forward to the future; I hope to further create and participate in communities of writers, people who share my passions and interests and from whom I can learn.