As a writer who aspires to be traditionally published, my greatest challenge is in overcoming my own doubts. Putting the words on the page is (usually) fun. Even editing is enjoyable for me. What I struggle with is knowing that what I’ve done is good enough.
There are so many markers writers can use to measure our success. For those of us who haven’t yet been published, that seems like the ultimate goal. But at least some of those writers who have been published contest that it isn’t the end of the road.
A few years ago, I heard two-time Newbery- and two-time National Book Award-winner Katherine Paterson speak in an interview with Jon Scieszka, as he passed her the baton of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Humble as she is, Paterson said that every time she finishes a book, she thinks that’s it, the last one. She never knows if she’ll be able to write something publishable again.
Likewise, in his article “30 things that every writer should know” from The Telegraph, author Matt Haig writes,
– Having my name on a book never makes me more confident.
– Being published doesn’t make you happy. It just swaps your old neuroses for new ones. (I should have gone to Oxbridge! Why wasn’t I invited to Hay? Am I not Granta enough? I wish I was Jonathan Franzen!)
– The joy of writing never changes, however many books you have published. It is not always a joy. It is only a joy for a fraction of the time, but it is worth it, just for that fraction. And much of that joy comes from being that misfit kid grown up, leading readers and yourself to the wildest parts of your imagination.
As I prepare to jump back into my agented manuscript for a revision (that I’m admittedly scared of not doing well enough!), it’s oddly calming to know that achieving my goal of publication is not going to bring about a great change on a deeper level. It will only mean I have the chance to keep on creating with a larger audience.
As with so many other things in life, it’s not the doing that matters as much as doing it well. And that is something I have plenty of control over.