“Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that behind the big mask and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our poor little eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less under anxious control.” - George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1871
So you’re finally ready to get honest? You’re finally ready to admit that your writing is no good?
Congratulations. Welcome to the club! It’s time you knew the secret everyone else who writes already knows: it’s no good because you’re not good enough to write it.
And you’re not good enough for one, inescapable reason (and it isn’t a lack of trying). You’ve suspected it all along. It’s crept up on you time and time again as you waited for the words you knew wouldn’t be right:
You’re not enough.
You know. Everybody knows. It’s not really a secret at all. But here’s the thing–it’s not that big a deal. Trust me, plenty of people aren’t enough. It’s no reason to give up.
It should give you serious pause though. If more people realized this, there’d be far less junk published every year.
The best thing you can do now is take a moment to do yourself (and everyone else) a favor, and figure out what you’re going to do about it.
The vital question, of course, is what now?
1: Start with what IS working. Despite its shortcomings, your book is honest, insightful, revealing, and even inspiring. It achieved much of what you set out to do. It’s simply not what you should have set out to do. And that’s a tough pill to swallow–you’ll have to develop some discernment to sort out what exactly is good about it–but you’ve got time. And you’ve got the patience and skill to figure this out.
2. Go back to the vision. Reevaluate the origination of this book. What was the inception? What were you really after? If you’re like most of us, this is not natural or automatic. You don’t easily decide to change what or how you wrote simply because you need to. It’s hard to discover what you were really after (Teaching a lesson to prove a point? Affirmation or acclaim? Serving God better so he’d bless you?)
Hey, welcome to the writer’s process!
Everyone who sets out to write a book finds it’s harder than they thought. Hopefully, you realize you’ve got to edit it, but also, you’ve got to let it be what it wants to be, not what you want it to be. Sadly, I don’t think that is ever easy. But less sadly, this is something your book will teach you if you can slow down and listen.
This is what my book taught me: I was after all those parenthetical things above. So going back to the vision to reevaluate was the only way to improve. The first draft wasn’t a waste–I needed to write it to get it out and see it clearly. But I also needed to accept refining (or redefining) the vision as simply the next step in the process.
Reevaluating the vision is what you do when your goal is the truth.
We’re not alone. And we’re not getting off with a “one-time-and-done” edit. This reevaluating will be consistent, ongoing, and require lots of commitment (motivation!) to see what’s really going on.
I know that’s what writing is, but that’s also what life is. We’re really trying to see things as they truly are.
Yeah, that’s a big, deep concept. And yeah, it was always that big. We just don’t like to see it too clearly–it’s scary.
So let this feel overwhelming for a while. It’s okay. Take it slow. And thank God now you can recommit to this deeper goal and finally stop seeing refinement as a barrier to success.
It isn’t. It never has been. Because the truth is exactly what you always wanted.
3. Recommit to the higher purpose. When I started this little blog experiment in 2004, I was working for a national ministry publisher and didn’t have a clue I’d still be editing 13 years later. I had one goal: keep my core motivation of honoring God. From my first post, the Monday Motivations and the “Higher Purpose” tagline was about establishing and evaluating what we’re really after in writing.
I believed this was what made successful writers.
Letting go of all selfish purposes, and deciding to love the journey. This was the one thing I knew I wanted.
Finding your higher purpose is always the real work because we’re fickle, distractable, chronically forgetful people. We are the Israelites. We forget God is working, we forget we’re following and not leading, and we forget the real point isn’t what we’re after but what he’s doing.
We’re always beholden to the work. And God is in it, if we’ll stop to notice and listen. So the real work is always slowing down to pay attention to what we’re really doing and saying, and why. Writing ultimately means leading readers to know what’s most important. But always first, we’ve got to find that ourselves.
If we’re going to be good guides and bring fresh air to many, we have to relax and be healed of our need to perform.
I was talking with another author who suffered unimaginable damage in her life. It’s taken years to acknowledge it was wrong and overcome it. It absolutely floored me that she’d done what I always have, diminishing the pain. “EVERYONE else’s pain was always worse,” she said.
What holds writers back isn’t the pain itself; it’s the struggle to believe it warrants attention.
That’s the unbelievable, secret truth, the debilitating LIE that a writing coach can’t fix. How can I express this strongly enough to convince you: this belief is the great evil in your way. People spend their lives afraid to allow what they suffered to matter, unable to allow the only thing that could break the bonds of that fear: accepting the truth.
We’ve been told over and over again, “No one cares. You don’t matter. Whatever you think happened, it was nothing compared to real struggle. You know nothing of what that’s like.”
Everyone thinks this. It’s designed to keep you safe. Day after day, month after month, how long has it held you silent?
You’re not going to make mountains out of molehills. It was bad enough. You won’t be throwing a pity party. You’re just going to acknowledge it happened and it hurt. You’ll never know real freedom until you call it what it was, and face this fake news playing in your head 24/7.
People care. It does matter. It was real. And it was wrong.
So many people need the freedom of that. And all it takes is your honest, vulnerable courage.
Face it. For justice, for peace, for righteousness and healing.
You were chosen to speak this. No more lies. It’s time to realize what you carry, Light-bringer. Share what you’ve been given, and see it transform out of the ashes of your past. It matters, and no one can change that. Nothing can overcome this–no more dodging.
“Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?” - Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, 1843
For the higher purpose!