Warning: This post contains hero-worship.
We all wonder if our writing is good enough. Good enough for an agent, a publisher, a reviewer, our cat.
Last fall, I followed Rachel Thompson’s exchanges with a not-to-be mentioned book guru who was slamming all self-published authors with a broad brush. She, and her commenters, made many valid counter-points (better slams). Proud as I was of Rachel (whom I met once for a few seconds at SFWC13, so we’re almost friends), I have to admit the whole episode made me quake in my boots a little. Putting my writing “out there” might just be akin to showing off the new dress my mother made to the mean girls on the playground. No Matter how great of a seamstress my mom was, mean girls are, well, …mean.
I honestly had to go lick my imagined wounds (with this type of an imagination, maybe I should switch to fiction, huh?) and look through Amazon vendors for item #THICK SKIN. I don’t have one of those. It’s not in my DNA.
Really, I’ve been to therapy.
Insight into the “Writing good enough?” Quandry
Luckily, insight arrived in my email inbox. It came from Taylor Stevens of The Informationist fame. (Full disclosure: She doesn’t just write me personally. You can sign up for her emails too. In fact, I recommend it.)
Here’s an excerpt of her stand on the good-enough? quandary. (Bolding is mine, not hers)
There are many routes to get to the end destination of “good enough,” and although some journeys may be shorter or longer than others, everyone who wants to write professionally has to make the trip because nobody’s born there. Nobody starts out good enough.
If you want to write, if you dream about writing, and you worry that you aren’t good enough, well, frankly, you’re right. But so what? As both a reader and a fellow writer, I’d be a little worried about you if you didn’t think your stuff wasn’t good enough, because it seems that it’s the writers who believe their creations are brilliant whose work truly sucks.
Back to my therapy. I was lamenting why it was difficult for me to response professionally to a personal attack. By professionally, I mean a coherent sentence without quivering lips or watering eyes. I don’t have this problem when defending someone else. Her cognitive therapy answer: Tell the ninny Laura (my words, not hers) to stand back
So how do I—and maybe you too—tell my wannabe self to shut up and let me gonnabe self handle things?
I think it’s through advocacy.
Advocate for Your Writing!
Stephanie Chandler, author of Find Your Niche, suggests thinking of your book as a business. Even though she’s probably right, I am way more emotionally connected to my writing than I am to any business venture. It’s more like a child.
That metaphor works for me. It’s a lot like me, but it’s separate.
Like we do for our kids, We want the best for our work. So we advocate for it. We make sure it’s dressed appropriately for the cold (editors, critique groups), has the right friends (networking), and we place it in the best school (agent, publisher, self-publishing platform. When it doesn’t get the high marks that it and we think it deserves, we fight the urge to tear the criticizer a new orifice. We help it figure out if the criticism is valid and whether a change needs to be made.
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