Journey of a Shy Writer

By Debby Lee

(Note: Debby's first published short story just released. Butterflies Are Free is available now here.)

According to Murphy’s Law, the shortest distance between point A and point B is under construction. For my character Lena Thumble, in my short story Butterflies are Free, her point A was a quaint little house down the street for a life of dutiful housekeeping and point B was in Bethel, New York, where she dreamed of performing at Woodstock, the famed music festival. Much to her frustration, the road to Max Yasger's now famous farm appeared as daunting as flying to the moon with the first astronauts.

Life can be a real adventure when we can see the road before us and we’re excited about arriving at our destination. But life is also full of pot holes, speed bumps and detours. Sometimes we struggle to stay on the path we think is best and many times we get lost along the way.

As a writer, when I first began submitting my work, the fear and anxiety was enough to stop my wheels in their tracks. I was scared to put my work out there for the entire world to see. I know that what I write isn’t going to reach everybody in every situation, but the thought of harsh judgment and being laughed at is enough to make me think twice before sending my manuscripts to the editor.

How about those rejection letters? They’re practically enough to derail a seasoned writer, and make this writer want to end the trip altogether. After working so long and so hard on something I think is right, it’s disappointing to reach a proverbial dead end. It’s hard making a U turn, retracing the steps and figuring out how to pick up the trail again.

I know I can’t be the only writer to get bad scores on a contest entry and critiqued chapters that bled so much red ink I was sure the manuscript was dead, dead, dead! Events like this make me feel as lost, scared and confused as a new Army recruit in the jungles of Vietnam.

In spite of all the obstacles on the writing journey, the quest towards publication can be a learning experience filled with personal growth. Polishing manuscripts to a high shine, researching publishing houses and writing awesome query letters helps minimize the anxiety of submissions and can reduce the chances of rejection.

Take heart and allow me to encourage you. Don’t be filled with so much anxiety that you fail to or prolong taking that first step. Don’t let a dead end be the end of your trip. Get a road map and find a different route or find a way to blaze a new trail. If you feel like you’re going the wrong way, don’t be too afraid to stop and ask for directions. If you’re stuck in a rut, or broke down on the side of the road, don’t be afraid to ask for help. My heroine did.

Lena was passionate about being free to sing and express herself through verse and melody. The songs she wrote were poignant to her in controversial 1969. When she struck out on her own to attend Woodstock, little did she know how much that trip would cause her to grow as a person. She discovered that doing one’s duty, even when it was difficult, could be very liberating. It was quite a journey for the free-spirited Lena.

How is the journey going for you? Are there obstacles blocking the road to your dream? Make a comment below and tell me about it. Maybe we can find a way to get you there, one way or another. At the very least, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of Butterflies are Free.

Debby Lee has always enjoyed writing poetry, short stories and in her diary. Her work has been published in numerous newsletters, college journals, e-zine’s and in a book of devotions. Besides RWA, she belongs to the Christian Writers Guild and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She is happily married, has five children and lives in Centralia Washington with her family. Reading is one of her favorite hobbies. Her other interests include traveling, being active in her local church and cheering for the Seattle Seahawks. You can learn more about Debby Lee here.

NOTE ABOUT COMMENTING: Sometimes Blogger can be a bit ornery. Make sure you leave the box UNchecked that says, "Leave me signed in" when you sign in with Google. See if that helps.


  1. Debbie I love this era. My short story coming out in Dec is set in 1967. I would enjoy reading this story! Woodstock? Yep the epitome and perfect ending to the sixties. I'd be thrilled to read your book. Congrats on the sale!

    You offer some great advice in this. I hit road blocks and manage to shovel through, but sometimes it feels like an impossible mission. I received tow rejections from the same publisher in almost as many months with my first ms. Then it was lost- yep, lost somewhere inside the publishing house... a paper copy!- I was advised to resend it to the editor who had rejected it first. I did, telling him that he had already rejected this same 3 chapters over a year before. You got it. He rejected it one more time. For some reason that last rejection hurt the worst even though I was fully expecting it. It took a lot to get back to writing and I had my first conference coming up! The ms I had intended to pitch was no where near finished! I couldn't make myself write after the rejection, so I pitched it anyway, not telling the agent/editor it was incomplete (which I do not recommend and it was required to be complete). What happened? They both requested a partial of course- which, to this day I have not sent and have yet to finish it.

    Long story short- we have to push on or one rejection can stump us indefinitely. I did and I'll have my first published book in three short months!

  2. Debby Lee, thanks so much for coming on. I hope Google will let you comment here. Just make sure you UNcheck the box that says, "leave me signed in."

    I love your cover, BTW--it's so happy. :)

  3. Thanks Calisa for the leaving a comment. It's nice to touch base with somebody else who enjoys this time era. Yes there's a lot of stumbling blocks on the road to publication. All a writer can do is forge ahead in spite of the obstacles. Thanks again for the comments.
    @ Becky, thanks for the technical tip, I'm able to leave comments now.

  4. Great advice! I wrote when I was young and submitted a story to a magazine when I was just out of high school. The rejection letter kept me from submitting until many years later. I wish I'd known then what I know now. Over many years I've developed that thick skin writers need if they're to survive rejection letters, bad contest scores and bad reviews. I never stop learning though, and use what I can to keep improving my craft.

  5. Thanks Susan for sharing a bit of your journey. It's a pleasure seeing you here today. I'm glad you didn't give up on writing even though you had a setback. Happy writing. :)

  6. Debby Lee, the path to publication is definitely full of pot holes! Happy you persevered.

  7. Hi, Debby. First, let me congratulate you on having a story out there. That's a huge first step and I know it feels both exhilarating and scary as heck. I think we all hit road blocks. As for me, I realized I'd fallen into the unfinished manusrcipt road block. I have four of them. Self doubt can be a huge wall to have to climb over. So this is my year of finishing those 4 stories and getting them out there.
    Best of luck to you!

  8. Thanks Caroline and Laurie for posting a comment. Glad to see you here. Wishig you both the best of luck with your writing.
    @ Laurie, good luck in finishing your manuscripts.

  9. Oh, Laurie--I SO feel your pain. I went through a few years where all I was doing was starting manuscripts. Now, I'm doing what you're doing--finishing them one by one.

  10. Wish you best of Luck. Keep up the good work Debby, I am soooo proud of you!!