Last week I read a blog about the ways writers can measure their progress. The author, Jami Gold, described how writers often view growth through external factors, such as winning contests and being published. She cautioned us about this approach because there are always going to be contests we lose and stories that are rejected.
What I take away from this article is the importance of self-evaluation. Though it is essential for our peers to read and critique our work we need to rely on our own instincts and abilities to help us gain confidence. This is particularly difficult for someone like me who is product-oriented or grade-oriented.
The best advice I’ve found on this problem is to simply to write for fun. Lately I’ve been working through my left-brained writing style with the help of a Freeflow writing group and “The Plot Whisperer” book by Martha Alderson. I was feeling confident that I had turned a corner and I was beginning to write for enjoyment. The freedom to write without evaluation allowed me to see the finished product as the completed novel instead of the published novel.
Then I attended a meeting where an author shared his success story of how his novel came into being. During the meeting he talked honestly about the trials and pitfalls of the publishing world. This information was not new to me but it still felt like a slap in the face. A frustration bubbled in me and I left the meeting annoyed and disenchanted with the writing world.
The next day Elaine and I met and I told her how I felt. (I wish an Elaine into every fledgling writer’s life!) As we talked openly about why we write I realized I was still overly focussed on the product and not the journey. It startled me because I thought I had made progress. However, I have progressed because I was able to re-evaluate my anger and re-commit to my writing.
I have hopes I will one day be published, but as Elaine said, it’s more important to write stories I love and not worry about whether it will sell or not. Plus, she’ll read my stories so that’s one person.
The concept of progress seems to be very fluid for us writers. We experience a great deal of false starts and trips back to the drawing board, but we also get those accolades we strive for.