I get a brief reprieve from the deadline cave this week while I wait for feedback from my awesome readers. When I first sent my work out to them, I felt great. This work was as good as I could make it.
But going back to last week’s perfection posts (here and here), I’m now second-guessing myself. Did I really do everything I could? Did I develop that idea enough? Did I emphasize that concept too much?
*ugh* It’s endless, isn’t it?
To some extent, that worry is human nature. Let’s face it, unless we’re stuck-up, arrogant jerks, of course we think we’re lacking in some way. But we can’t let that feeling paralyze us. So while I accept that I might not ever be 100% satisfied with my work, the one thing I don’t let myself do is regret the attempt.
Schools today often praise students for trying. And yes, that’s a feel-good approach, but it can help people want to try. The best scientists and inventors make hundreds of attempts before succeeding. Their failures before their eventual success aren’t looked down on.
Does anybody say, “Well, the Wright brothers weren’t that special because they didn’t get an airplane to fly their first time out”? No. History sees their years of development and hundreds of tests as a sign of their determination, not as a sign of their failure.
Continuing to try is a good thing. It means we haven’t given up.
What constitutes “trying” in the writing world? Is it just endless revisions? Or does it mean we have to try to capture a reader’s appreciation for our work? Or maybe it means that we have to hit send even though we know it’s not perfect. Like agent Rachelle Gardner wrote:
Don’t wait for perfection. You want your work to be as strong as possible, yet you can’t just wait forever, always saying, “I can do better.”
Learning the craft and improving our skills are an important part of our journey. But the real test is putting our work out there. Maybe we start with our family or friends, then we move on to beta readers and critique partners, then we might submit to agents and editors, and finally our story ends up in the hands of the end reader—the Amazon customer.
Yes, we’re going to fail. We’re going to be rejected. Someone, probably lots of someones, won’t like our work. But that’s better than not trying at all. Rejection is our proof that we’re trying.
And as long as we’re trying, our failures won’t matter once we reach success. The only thing that will make those failures “count” is if we give up. Aren’t there dozens of sayings along the lines of: We’re guaranteed to never win the race if we never leave the starting block? The real failure is letting our fear of failure paralyze us into not trying at all.
How strong is your fear of failure? How do you keep it from holding you back? Have you given yourself permission to fail and be rejected?