“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction. If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance.
I have too many voices in my head. See, I’m a firm believer in FEEDBACK and CRITIQUE. I write, I get feedback. I revise, then I get feedback. I revise some more, and then…. I get feedback.
This letter isn’t about shutting up my inner perfectionist, though. It’s about the fact that no matter how many times I polish a story and really think it’s ready to go, I just don’t get that final stamp of approval from my critique partners. I’ll even spare some so they don’t have to keep reading the same story over and over, and get fresh eyes when I think I need just one more pass for line-edits, but even those readers tell me THINGS THAT SHOULD BE CHANGED.
Short stories, novels. You name it, everyone has their own ideas about WHAT THE STORY SHOULD BE or WHAT THE PROBLEMS ARE. And some of the ideas are really interesting, or the critiques don’t always match! I know, I know: I should follow the feedback that best suits my goals for the story. But that’s the problem, Coach.
With all the voices giving me feedback, I’ve forgotten how to trust my own.
How do I get that trust in my own voice back, Coach?
Too Many Voices In My Head
Dear Too Many Voices,
This really is about shutting down your inner perfectionist. It’s your inner perfectionist that keeps telling you to send it out “one more time”.
Trusting ourselves is a very difficult thing to do, especially in an industry where we rely on the feedback of others to improve our product. We have fallen victim to the teaching that our work needs to be publishable, perfect, before we submit it. Yes, you want to have the best manuscript possible, with a clear and interesting story, clean of typos and grammatical errors, etc. But chances are, especially for debut authors, there will be changes requested by the editor anyway.
What I’m saying, is that no manuscript will ever be perfect. There are always things that can be changed. You can have dozens of beta readers, and they will all find something, because we all have different opinions. When we see their comments on what should be changed, we see the story through a new light, and so we agree and think it will never be good enough to submit.
You are never going to get that stamp of approval from anyone but yourself.
How to trust yourself? A wise woman once told me, and so I say the same to you: “You have to start submitting.”
Get feedback once or twice on a story. Fill the plot holes as best as possible in that time frame. Make the characters and the plot as interesting as you can. Clean up as many typos and grammatical errors as you can. Then send it out. It will be uncomfortable at first. You probably will get rejections, and that’s OK. But what if, what if, an editor sees your work and loves it? Why are you robbing yourself of that chance?
As you submit that project, you take what you’ve learned from it, and you start a new one, and learn more about the craft of writing. Growth doesn’t come from repeatedly revising an old project, it comes from writing more and varied projects. And as you grow as a writer — yes, get feedback once or twice then send it out — you will develop that confidence in yourself as a writer.
I challenge you to remove your crutch of feedback. Stop using it as an excuse for not submitting your work. With all the insecurity you will be left with, submit your work. I am here cheering you on. Start something new. Grow as a writer and gain that confidence. And tell me how it is going!
Creatively yours, Sherry
Have a question for Sherry? Send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.