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Have Faith in Your Work

January 30, 2010

It’s been a long week for me. I’m sure most of us feel that way by the time Friday rolls around, eh? Unfortunately, shortly after the doctor cut my new antibiotics the Lyme’s symptoms came roaring back (which is what happens when it’s not been a long enough time on antibiotics).

By Wednesday I was trying to nap in the afternoon and ready to cry at the drop of a hat. I became increasingly forgetful and had friends that spoke out about noticing it because of their worry for me. My thoughts were scattered and I couldn’t concentrate. So next week I go to the hospital for a picc line (finally learned how to spell that right) to be inserted in my arm and I’ll start a strong IV antibiotic.

Work this week consisted of editing other people’s work because I couldn’t focus on my own. Supriya is gearing up to enter a bunch of contests and I lit a serious fire under her ass this week to get things to me – and damned if she didn’t do it. An essay, a synposis, and a perfect first chapter. Followed by us still hashing out small details on her second and third ones too (for another contest that requires more chapters). I’ve got a good feeling about her work and hopefully with some more badgering I can convince her she should feel good about it too.

I never realized how important that one small detail was for writers – to simply believe in your own work. Having my art work displayed in public from the age of nine prepared me in ways my fellow writers are still learning. My art work was subjective to the eye of the beholder. Some people would love it and some people would hate it – but because I was so young most of them kept their dislike to themselves.

I gained a confidence in my work at a very early age. After entering public contests from the age of eleven on (and never winning) I learned to live with it. I could recognize the beauty in my competitors work and be happy for them. Back then they didn’t hand out trophies like they do now for every damn little thing a kid does. I’m lucky if I ever received a ribbon in any of them. I think the first time I got a blue ribbon for one of my pieces I was nineteen.

Interestingly enough, I was paid for my work before I ever won anything. I had a few pieces that people offered to buy (which I think I wound up giving it to them instead) and my girlfriend started a sign painting business when we were sixteen which she brought me in on with her. Before that I had done detailed murals on school walls and in friends bedrooms for free. It was fun and took up time (something teenagers have plenty of!), and earn me some money.

Experiencing all those things made me realize that yes, I had talent — but more importantly that it didn’t matter if I was the ‘best” at something. There are still plenty of places in this world a person can go without being number one in something. Even now when I create something I can spot every damn fault in it. I can see every spot that I wish I could somehow fix or re-do to make it perfect.

Art is not about perfectionism and for someone like me with OCPD (basically a perfectionist) it was the best lesson I could learn early on in life. My friends don’t see the errors in my art – they are usually unfailingly kind in the words they share with me and yes, I’ll admit it, most times I think they are just being kind because they are my friends. I create because I want to. Now, for the past dozen years, that artistic outlet comes out in the home-improvement projects I’ve done. If you saw any of the four houses I’ve lived in over the past twelve years, you’d understand.

How does this relate to my writing? In my mind they are one and the same. My work will not appeal to everyone. I get that. I recently had an agent I was pinning my hopes on for months give me a detailed rejection letter stating what she didn’t like in my work. I am grateful for her time, but I don’t agree with a lot of what she criticized. Now I’m in a pickle – listen to her advice or the hundreds of beta readers that don’t agree?

I’ve decided to incorporate one or two of her suggestions and ignore the rest. I need to have faith in my work and realize that if she and her assistants didn’t see all that I was weaving in that perhaps it was too subtle, but not that the book needs a complete re-write. I’ve decided to have faith in what dozens – no hundreds – of people are telling me. That the book is intriguing, suspenseful, sexy, and they rushed to get through it. Perhaps the agent and her assistants read it too fast and missed the small details, perhaps they honestly felt that offering advice to make my book more of a formula was a good thing.

I’m starting to get some book blog reviewers reaching out to me that they’ve finished the book and enjoyed it. I’m still waiting to read their reviews, but I’m comfortable with the work overall. Is it perfect? No. Could it stand to be tweaked a bit? Yes. Am I willing to make those changes from an actual publisher’s editor? You bet your sweet patootie am I!

In closing, I’d like to share with you a short message I had waiting for me in my inbox today. It’s from a close friend of mine that I used to role-play with back in college (so, yes, I’ve known her for twenty years). She sat down to read the hard copy version of my manuscript this week and has been unwavering in her support of me from the very beginning. In turn, she has also been inspired to try her own hand at writing children’s books, her secret dream for years.

“At some point today you stopped being my friend who wrote a book and became an author I can’t put down… YAY 🙂 I’m loving your book sister… loving it. Love love love. 😉 Did I mention that I love it?”

Her simple but eloquent first line brought such a joy to my heart that I don’t think I can even put it in to words if I try.  I’ve often felt that for the old friends that are supporting me I have been a “friend who wrote a book” and even if it isn’t their cup of tea that they love me so much they’d support whatever I did.  Today she made me feel like an author.  What a gift she gave me!

Maybe it’s the weepiness of the Lyme’s, maybe I’m a sentimental fool, whatever it is I don’t care. I think I’m going to print that one line out and pin it to my wall.  Yes, it matters that much to me.
Have faith in yourself and in your work.  You are worthy and one day soon others will see it too.
Have a great weekend everyone,
C.J.

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