There can be a real desire, especially for the novice writer, to have someone validate our work as soon as possible, even to tell us if we are, in fact, a writer. It’s a lot of power to assign to someone else.
I have a friend, a successful Century City lawyer, let’s call him Arthur. In the ’70’s Arthur was not only a successful young attorney, but also an up and coming novelist. TIME magazine named him one of the ten brightest new stars in fiction. He had published three novels in fairly quick succession to some acclaim.
On an international flight he scribbled down twenty pages of what he hoped to be the beginning of his fourth novel. He got home, thrilled at what he had written and showed it to his wife. Her response was lukewarm, not positive. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what her response was, because I only remember his.
He never wrote again.
The world is littered with the towering potential of unfinished manuscripts. We’re all fragile and insecure, and sometimes we objectify the act of creation, meaning we believe that some are born artists while most of us are just kidding ourselves. We wonder which camp we fall into, and fear we are the fools, wasting our lives in a pointless endeavor.
There comes a time when we must stop measuring our passion and surrender to our purpose. When we direct our focus to simply telling the story, great things can start to happen.
Before sending our work into the world we should be able to answer two questions for ourselves.
- Have I said what I wanted to say?
- Have I done it in the most effective way?
When you have satisfied these two criteria, then you can send it out for constructive criticism, and it is time to move on. Next.
Something powerful happens when we have answered these two questions. We become ready for criticism. We have come to understand what we have written, and are no longer in that vulnerable daydream state. We have been ruthless with our pen. We have developed objectivity and are now seeking solutions to make the work better.
I don’t think my friend Arthur ever decided to quit writing. I don’t think it works like that. Perhaps he began to doubt his story. Perhaps this doubt led to distraction. (I happen to know it did – last year we spoke briefly and he told me that he had recently split from his fifth wife). And finally, not writing became the norm.
Is it good? Good is relative. Have I said what I wanted to say? Have I done it in the most effective way?