Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Fellow writers, has this happened to you?  You’re writing something, and everybody and their mother, and their mothers, and their brothers too, say they want to read it, that you must send it to them when it’s done.

So then you write this story and you edit the hell out of it, taking great pains to make it as perfect as possible (don’t worry, it’ll only be a few minutes before you inevitably look it over again and find something else you want to change).  Finally, though, you feel like it’s just perfect enough to share with eyes other than your own.  So you take that little masterpiece and you send it to those people who have been eagerly demanding to see what you spend night after night working on.  You don’t even ask them for feedback—you give ‘em a no-strings-attached “Here it is for you to read!”

And then all you hear is crickets chirping.

And eventually, you hear excuses.

You hear “I’ll read it tomorrow!”—which would be more convincing had they not said the same thing the day before, and the day before that.

After a while, you stop asking, and you’re left with a very important lesson: It’s important for a writer to be self-sufficient.

Getting feedback is always a good idea, but trusting your gut is equally important.  I had promised myself that, for the short story I was writing for a contest, I would be the only one who saw it before I submitted it.  I wanted to see how good my instincts are, how good of a story I could craft using only my own brain, with no outside opinions involved.  (For the record, I think I did a pretty good job.)

It’s a good thing I only wanted to deal with my own feedback and reactions before submitting the story; I’m pretty sure if I’d waited for anyone else to chime in, the deadline would have been passed long ago.  I’m glad I can trust my gut and be confident with what I send in.  Whether my gut is right or my gut is wrong matters less to me than having the confidence to submit something entirely on my own—although I do, of course, hope my gut is right, as that bodes well for all the other stories I have bouncing around my brain.

So far, I’ve gotten feedback about my story from only one person.  Luckily, it’s a person whose creative instincts I trust and whose opinions I really respect when it comes to this sort of stuff.  The story I sent him was rather dark and disturbing--the kind of thing that, if it doesn’t leave you unsettled at the end, either something’s wrong with you or something’s wrong with how I wrote the story.  He was, unsurprisingly, unsettled by it.  The last bit of his commentary to me: “That’s the mark of a good short story, though.  It sticks with you if it bothers you.”  

It stuck with him.  Mission accomplished.

My self-sufficient author brain is happy to not necessarily need this sort of reassurance, but also really, really pleased to receive it.

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