Any creative venture is uniquely special to its creator. There’s a conception, a gestation period of preparation and practice, and then a birth. To hand your story over to a reader, or to hit send on that online submission, can feel a bit like handing your newborn baby to a stranger. Your palms sweat, your breath catches, your heart beats wildly in your chest, and you hope that they will be careful with you. You wait for the smile or the grimace.
No one wants to hear that they just spent the last year on an ugly baby (a real possibility in the current climate, where everyone is a critic and everything is relative). So, writers opt to keep their work tucked in a drawer somewhere, or on an external hard drive far away from prying eyes.
And by writers, I do mean me. I do that.
For every writer who’s a little bit (or a lot) like me, here are three affirmations that comfort me when I’m afraid of a writing flop.
It doesn’t need to be perfect to be enjoyed.
“Nothing is ever perfect.” You almost never hear this as an adult, where making or breaking careers often involves your projects coming as close to perfect as possible. “Nothing is ever perfect,” can feel like a disingenuous, condescending cop-out.
So, here’s something a little easier to swallow: It doesn’t need to be perfect to be enjoyed. A birthday party may not go smoothly, but as long as their pizza and cake, people are usually forgiving.
Responses to my work are not a reflection of me.
That baby analogy we made before? It’s back again to make you uncomfortable.
When I spend a lot of time creating something, I come to think of it as almost living, almost breathing. I swell with pride, because I know that the whole story– every word on every page– came from somewhere inside of me. To hear that an idea just isn’t working can feel like a massive blow, and I can tell myself that my insecurity is about the story until my face turns blue. The truth is that I am afraid of how perceptions of my imperfect creation reflect on me as a person.
Imagining yourself as an outside observer can help. You are a creator, and you get to watch something you create introduce itself to the world and make its own friends and enemies. Nothing about you as an individual impacts your story’s ability to engage or disengage your readers. Just remember: Responses to my work are not a reflection of me.
This will make me stronger.
Jumping off the high dive was difficult the first time I did it. Standing at the edge of the board, staring down at the water below, a tightness clutched at my chest. I’d seen others do it before me– all emerged from the water unharmed– and the faces of my family and peers below me were all cheering me on. All I had to do was jump. I closed my eyes, I straightened my body, and after several delays, I finally jumped. I hit the surface with a splash, the cool water rushing over my body as I sunk farther down than I’d ever been before. When I emerged, I felt a rush of excitement and energy so intense that I immediately ran to jump again.
Pressing submit is just like the high dive. It gets easier every time.