This past week has been a good news / bad news / good news sort of week. The conflicting emotions have been *ahem* good for making me question my strategies (yet again).
On the good news side, I received the scores from my last contest, The Emily. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’m calling myself done with unpublished contesting. After 3 wins and 6 other finals for Treasured Claim, I’ve gotten everything from the experience I could. The good news? My Emily score was 99%.
On the bad news side, The Emily was extremely competitive in my category this year. In fact, to final, an entry needed to have a score of 99.5% or higher. Yep, the bad news? I didn’t final in my last contest despite my score of 99%. *insert your favorite expletive here*
Back on the good news side, my good friend Buffy Armstrong did receive a 99.5% and did final! And since I helped her with editing and discussed openings for her story several months ago, I’m doubly happy for her. Yay!
My biggest disappointment was not getting my work in front of the final judge, an agent I respect. As I’ve bemoaned many times, I have a terrible track record with my queries, so I’d been using contests to try to circumvent the query process. But now that I’m calling myself done with contests, I find myself at a crossroads.
We Don’t Need Permission for Our Dreams
For a long time, I’ve held off querying my “dream” agent because I wanted some positive results before striking out with a method that doesn’t work for me. In addition to contesting, I tweaked my query with oodles of help from friends and readers. And then…
I dithered. I rationalized. I stressed.
It finally dawned on me that I was essentially waiting for permission to believe that my query was the best I could make it. “If only abc would happen, I’ll know it’s good enough to send to my dream agent.”
Ugh. How is that any different from waiting for external permission for anything else?
Answer: It’s not.
We shouldn’t wait for permission to call ourselves a writer. (If we write, we’re a writer—nothing “aspiring” about it.) We shouldn’t wait for permission to take our writing seriously. We shouldn’t wait for permission to make progress toward our goals.
In short, we shouldn’t wait for external permission for our internal dreams. Yes, it’s nice to have encouragement from others or validation that we’re “good enough,” but too often we let that “nice to have” aspect hold us back.
Perfectionism Rears Its Head—Again
I’ve been suffering from that permission problem for a while, especially with the validation aspect. What was it going to take to convince me that my query, my writing, my story was “good enough”?
Seriously, self, what am I waiting for? I mean—not to brag—but 3 contest wins and 6 additional finals? I’ve received more perfect scores than I can remember, and I have a list of judges (including two from The Emily) who have given me their names so I can tell them when Treasured Claim is published. This story deserves to progress toward publication, not be held back because of “well, maybe I’ll wait until xyz.”
So how do we cut off the perfectionism holding us back until “one more thing” happens? How do we stop the waiting game and move forward? How do we overcome these fears?
My Plan? Have a Plan
My perfectionism makes me so bad at this, but if someone else came to me with this problem, here’s the advice I’d give them: Create a plan for making progress—and then follow through with it.
Now I’m not recommending that people quit their jobs or negatively impact their families. However, we can usually find some way to make progress.
Maybe we’d join a critique group to improve our craft. Maybe we’d send out queries by the dozens or investigate self-publishing options. Maybe we’d start another story so all our hopes don’t hang on one possibility.
For me, I’m accepting that while this dream agent would be a “nice to have,” I also have plans for how to make progress if that’s a no-go. Yes, it might suck to hear “no,” but that answer doesn’t have power over my ability to move forward. If I don’t see this step as the end-all-be-all, I hope I won’t procrastinate about it anymore.
The recognition of my power to move forward doesn’t require permission from anyone else. This step is internal to me, and I have control over it. In other words, I’m not waiting for others.
So I’m putting this plan out there for accountability. *grin* In the next month (making allowances for crazy holiday schedules), I will query this dream agent, and I will be fine and continue making progress no matter what happens.
There. Done. *bites nails*
Do you ever feel you need permission to move forward? How do you overcome that issue? What causes your longing for external permission? Can you remove power from your fears by coming up with a plan? Do you have any advice for me?Pin It