It’s going to be Okay

December 8, 2010

Late last night, I got an email from a friend of mine who had been reading my novel-in-progress. It was a roughly edited first draft, and she had kindly agreed to be a fresh pair of eyes, as I knew I was too close to it. She’s a writer too, has been doing this longer than me, and possesses a great head for details and a fierce love of the English language.

In a nutshell, I trust her, and I’m so touched she took the time for me.

But at midnight last night, there was a stab as I read some of her comments. Some of them were good, most were not, as the passages without problems had been left untouched. Every comment was made respectfully- no worries about bashing or ripping the work to shreds.

But my ego quailed and whimpered nevertheless.

It was like this: imagine you’re at a party, and you’ve had a few drinks. You begin dancing, and you start to belive that, although you’re no Beyoncé, you can bust a move pretty well. Better than some people. Hey, you can dance! And so you pump your fists and shake your rear, and don’t realize until the next morning that you looked like a pirate dancing a jig on one peg leg while fending off invisible parrots with hands that had both been replaced by hooks.

I doubted my ability to write. Not my ability to plot, or create characters, or capture dialogue, but to actually use language effectively. Writing has always been so integral to who I am- it was as though a fissure had opened in my chest.

If I can’t write well, what can I do?

It was worse last night. For a minute and a half, I felt like slinking under a rock and thinking seriously about other careers. But then I realized something.

This happens to everyone who wants to write. You hear it all the time- successful authors who got rejected the first five, ten, twenty times, and sat in their bedrooms wishing they could crawl under a rock. But they kept going. They kept trying, and writing, all on the faint-yet-powerful hope that everything was going to be Okay.

And I considered my age under the harsh light of Realism. At this point, I am not going to be a prodigy, but that’s Okay. Relatively speaking, I am still very young. There is a reason that young writers are noteworthy: because they’re so rare. As I’m now learning, it takes time, practice, and experience. That’s Okay. Right now, I have time on my side. This is my apprenticeship. This is when I’m supposed to suck. So long as I keep practicing, I’ll get better (or so I hope, anyway).

I’ve written before about my fear of putting myself out there. Well, now I’ve done it. And it was scary, and it was painful, but now… now I can see that it’s going to be Okay. A lot of the feedback will make the novel stronger, and that’s what I wanted. Thinking about this critical moment as one more test along the way helps. Do I turn back, now that I’ve taken the first step into the Dark Wood? Do I say that the shadows are darker than I thought, and the path is narrower, and I just heard a wolf howl?

Or do I keep going? As Sondheim puts it so well, “Into the woods, then out of the woods?”

I’m choosing the Woods. I don’t know if this book is publishable, but if I keep at it, I know I’ll learn so much that will benefit the next one. And the next.

I’m Okay.




  1. That’s the attitude you need — we all need. Don’t quit. Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite fantasy writers, says he wrote 13 novels (I think it was 13, but it was a LOT) before he got one published. Good luck. You can do it!
    Here’s a panel of successful writers (some of my favorites) talking about what they do and how: http://vimeo.com/15695484

    — david j.

  2. I’m glad you’re OK. 😉

    I enjoy reading your posts and find them captivating even if the subject matter is not on my “top 10” list.

    Write on!

    • Thank you! That really means a lot to me… and I’m glad you enjoy my posts. I’ve loved reading yours as well! 😀

  3. Arvik,

    Here’s another great link that will help keep you going when the DESPAIR comes on: http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/12/

    I really just discovered Writing Excuses, but I’m loving it.

    — david j.

    • Writing Excuses? As in the “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart” Writing Excuses?
      Haha, clicking on the link, I see it is the same one. I love it! You have excellent taste in podcasts. 😉

      • I guess I’m arriving at the game late, but these discussions are awesome.

        — david j.

  4. As long as its constructive and you can learn from it will only make your writing better and you stronger. Even if you have a published novel, people might still have less than complimentary things to say. Take for instance Stephen King bashing on the Twillight series. He had some valide points, but with all the hubaloo over them, it definately reached its audience. If you never put your work out there, you will never know where you stand. Have faith that every word, every edit, every critique gets you that step closer to your goal.

  5. Keep going!!! Do not give up on something you love based on the words/opinions of one person, no matter how much you care for that person. I always say that a good edit leaves the writer excited and enthusiastic about jumping back in. One that leaves you discouraged and feeling like this, is a failed interaction between the writer and the editor. Just because one person suggests something, doesn’t mean it’s gospel. Yes, you feel vulnerable right now, and all writers have been in that exact same spot, most of us multiple times. It’s part of being a writer. Which you are. Take this person’s critique, keep the pieces that you feel might be legitimate and that you can learn from, let the rest go, and keep writing.

  6. Sometimes, the hardest critic is…yourself. I once wrote a little story. A very rough draft, very scattered, but at least I got my thoughts down. I had point A and point C. All I need was point B…but that would come later.
    Well, I got a new printer, and printed this document out for a tester. Even though I knew that this document was a very rough draft…I pulled out that hated red pen. And tore it apart.
    I was horrifically brutal.All 8 pages were covered in red ink. My friends read the story, with all of the corrections on it, and promptly chewed me out. They all told me that this was a rough draft, and I had no right to beat myself up over this.
    Shows was I know. That made me feel better. It also reminded me why I NEVER correct my own work anymore. I go WAY too hard on myself!

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