In a Microsoft Word document I wrote up some personal thoughts running through my mind lately. Here’s part of it, in relation to writing specifically, plus some added elaboration.
I wanted to enter a contest called Pitch Wars. The entry for it is in a week and a half, and for this contest you need a query letter and a finished manuscript. I have the latter, but I still think it’s too rough. I still really need to do a lot with it. But the mentor I gain from the contest could help me, right? (This is presuming someone picked me; the chances are decent they wouldn’t.) So, I thought, if I really buckle down, I can get this polished enough.
Look, goals and deadlines are good for me, and I don’t believe in quitting before starting, but I realized after a day or two that this was not realistic. Right now, if I had to rate my own story, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars, which is good, solid. Better than some published books I’ve read, but of course I’m biased, and that’s just my opinion. But I want it to be, and I know it can be, more and better than that. I know I can’t achieve a perfect version of it before I pitch it (or even if/when it goes to print with a major publishing company), but I can do better.
Why pitch something sub-par to the potential I know it has even just in my hands?
And two weeks is not enough. Not unless I devote every free moment to it and quite frankly, I don’t want to stress myself out like that.
This contest happens once a year. There’s a similar contest that happens every year as well, in March. I have passed up bidding in silent auctions to get query/manuscript critiques that were super affordable. I know there are people who critique professionally for not a ton of money. I WILL HAVE OTHER OPPORTUNITIES. And I will use them when the time is right.
But that time is not now. Almost a year ago I hoped I would be ready by now. I’m not. But that’s not failure. I’m still in the process. I haven’t thrown in the towel, even if I’m not as actively writing as I want to be or ought to be. I still have goals in mind. I have not given up.
It’s OK if the timetable is longer than the one I originally envisioned. Theoretically and hopefully, I have several decades left on this Earth and I have time to learn and grow and become a better writer. I can’t compare myself to people who published awesome books when they were 22. It’s OK if it takes me more time. I wish their career longevity, but just because they started early it doesn’t mean their career will last. I was recently reading about George R. R. Martin’s career, who as who may know, is both not young and extremely successful as a writer these days. But there was a time he wrote a novel that was such a flop, he said it “essentially destroyed my career as a novelist at the time.” At the time. He moved on and did other things. Slowly and surely, building his writing up to become the author you know today.
And then there is Cristin Terrill, author of All Our Yesterdays, who recently explained why there wouldn’t be a sequel to her book. In case you haven’t heard about this, it’s because she couldn’t make it work. Period. Draft after draft, working with others, nothing could help it. She probably felt like a failure, so frustrated she couldn’t bring her ideas to life. But she learned. The experience will help her as a writer. She can and will grow from this. It was a really neat thing to read about, even if it was a little scary to think about it happening to me!
We are all always learning.