Author E.B. White stated, “Writing is both mask and unveiling.” You might begin writing from a small corner in a personal journal, hunched at a desk with candle burning, imagining yourself as the character Jo March from Little Women. The dream begins quietly, taking moments to pen essays and type grand triumphs. Small sentences string together in hopes of one day publishing your work. Or, perhaps you pursue writing with immediate professional intentions, spending hours filling up on knowledge from writing classes, deep diving into novels, and exploring your own work.
Whichever author you embody, love struck with words, hard-hitting journalist, or a gallant mixture of both, there will come a day when your words need publishing. It can be terrifying to think of exposing your work to the public’s eye. Fear is an easy friend, making it far too simple to keep your words hidden. But consider what is more frightening. It is scary to think that after all of your efforts, your words may never be read.
That is not what all writing is for. Some pages are indeed for reflection, meant to serve personal-processing reasons. However others, like the ones a hopeful writer has carefully cultivated, need a place to breathe. A voice should be shared, as it could have a positive impact on someone else. The phrase throw your hat into the ring applies, because standing at the end of the line of “published” or “not published” are writers that gave their words a chance.
The origin of throw your hat into the ring dates back to 19th-century boxing, when any lad who wanted to up his chances of actually fighting would throw his hat into the ring. This action was more noticeable than attempting to shout over the raucous crowd. Modern day writers must be able to embrace the attitude of the hungry, agile boxer.
It does nothing to stand at the edge of the ring dreaming of entering. There must come a day where you throw your words out there. Every creative career requires throwing your hat in at some point.
From past experience as a professional dancer, my feet would stand patiently in line-ups. Imagine A Chorus Line: numbers safety-pinned to leotards, make-up fresh, hair pulled up, and smiles plastered on. My friends and I would roll into huge auditions called cattle calls. We would fight for space to learn the choreography, tumbling across the convention room carpet with hundreds of other hopefuls. When the time came to really perform, a light switch would flick on within us. We would dial up our sparkle and fly across the room, fighting to be seen and hired.
There were several mornings that before the audition would take place, a production assistant would come out and type us. It was the biggest blessing as they would walk among us and inform the hopeful crowd that they were in fact hunting for one 5 foot 8 brunette that day. Not fitting that description, the rest of us could leave.
We’d saunter off to our second jobs, gobble down belated breakfasts, and move on with our days. Every audition went like that for me. I would mentally and emotionally prepare myself to give it my best shot. If no job offer panned out or I was not who they were looking for that day, then at least I walked away knowing I honored the chance to dance. I did not spend the day dreaming of going to the audition. For better or worse, I showed up. Pursuing a dance career helped me understand that doing is the actionable second step to dreaming.
Years later, I now carry that lesson with me as I throw punches at the world of publishing. There is an incredible noise, a voluminous chorus of other voices chasing writing in our digital age. But as the brilliant Dr. Seuss urges us, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” We can sit in sheer terror in our chairs and wonder if we should allow our words enter to the match, or we can simply take a deep breath, and throw our hats into the ring. Your voice is your own and it has something to offer the world. Let it out.
The worst scenario is rejection, and whenever we risk pursuing our dreams, rejection is in the air. Greet it as a friend, and learn from it. Hone your craft. Start to reach out in collaboration with other writers. Each word down on paper gives you another chance to work on your voice. Look for the tone of a publication before you submit, and see if it fits your style and a message you want to convey. You may find yourself typed out like I did in the dance line. That is fine. You have just been handed the permission to hunt for another means of publishing that will represent your voice even better.
Author Richard Bach reminds us that, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Throw in your hat. The ring is where the action is, and the place where your words will grow forward. Find the bravery to enter.