Letting Go of Your Work

“It seems like yesterday when we sent Junior off to kindergarten, and now he’s starting college!”

“There, there, Marge, think of the bright side. Now we can put a hot tub in his room.”

Like parents sending their child off to college, writers must release their work for scrutiny and possible publication. Not unlike parents, authors may have trouble letting go of their little darlings. Locking your prose in a desk drawer feels safe. How will you know its true worth without assessment? Little Sarafina looks lovely in that gown, but no one will ever see her if you don’t let her go to the prom.

The goal of writing is not to hoard your stories, putting them in display cases with velvet ropes and spotlights. Sure, these monuments to your untested and immature creativity are treasured by you. If this is why you write, then you’re done. For those who seek publication, however, this is not an option. You can only mature and grow as a writer when you submit your work for critique.

Insecurity prevents budding writers from showing their work to others, be they literary professionals or average readers. Potential novelists may believe that if readers don’t like their writing, they don’t like them. “Don’t take it personally” is an easy phrase that is hard to absorb. Proficient writing (and thick skin) is achieved only through consistent critical crafting.

Battle Plan

  1. Start close to home, by showing your work to someone you trust.
  2. Build up your confidence. Have your work critiqued by a literary professional.
  3. Continue your quest by honing your work to a razor-sharp edge, then submitting.

When parents have children, their goal is not to keep them in diapers at home their whole lives. God forbid! Kids gain their independence gradually, with small victories (and failures) along the way. Think of your stories as grown children. Do you want them parked on your family room sofa, playing video games the rest of their lives, or facing the world with fully equipped prose? Plaster on a smile, proud parent, and kiss them goodbye.

Comments

  1. Darin Elliott says:

    Wonderful article CJ. I love the comparison of a story to our children (as I have both . . . both of which are still in the house.)

    For me the biggest fear is that, after putting in months and months of work, what I write is soooo bad that it’s downright offensive to the reader. To overcome it though, I just keep reminding myself, I’m a novice and it’s unfair for me compare my ramblings to the works of masters like Stephen King or Hemingway. The only way I can get better is through the assistance of others critiquing my work.

    Thanks again and keep them coming!

  2. Jeanne Smith says:

    Thanks, CJ!

    In the past when my children were still home, I published magazine articles all the time. It was the joy of my life.

    Unfortunately, after 15 years working a day job which left little time for writing, I find that I’ve lost my confidence. Too much perfectionism, I think. Just last night I counted four books that I’ve written, none of which were submitted for publication. I also have a number of articles that took tremendous effort to research and write, but they never felt ‘perfect’ enough and I had last doubts about them.

    Your encouragement is exactly what I needed. I plan to get back to my files and re-read those pieces with a set of new eyes. With updates and revisions, some might still have some life in them. Thanks!

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