Like most writers, I am my own worst critic (or best critic, depending on which way you look at it). Usually, no-one is allowed to read anything until it’s been honed and polished several times over – a changed word here, a semi-colon there – before, after some persuasion, work might be self-deprecatingly shared with a few close friends over a glass of wine.
The past month of NaPoWriMo has though – amongst many other things – reminded me of the power of ‘good enough. Because the work is ours, we see the flaws and assume everyone else can too. It reminds me of decorating a room; we know where all the imperfections are – the brush marks or the bits of wallpaper that had to be patched up – yet all anyone else sees walking into the room is the finished job, neat and fresh. So it is, I believe, with writing. The discipline of NaPoWriMo forced me to reach a point where I simply had to commit to going public with work, or risk missing the daily deadline and in turn adding to the workload of the following day.
Now, I think most of my fellow NaPoWriMo participants will agree that a lot of what we produced was ‘first-draft’ quality – certainly I can see plenty of my own flaws and patches – and bears closer scrutiny before being put before editors or competition judges, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only writer to be pleasantly surprised by comments and feedback on what s/he considered to be sub-standard work, or at least not up to the usual quality. Whilst there’s always the risk that we were all being too nice to each other, I doubt anyone said anything that wasn’t genuinely meant – silence probably being the response of choice in the event of a genuine dislike.
For me, such encouragement caused me see my work through a rather more positive frame of reference than before; if fellow writers can see value in your work then maybe, just maybe so can publishers and judging panels.
No writer is going to have their work liked by everyone, all of the time and I know that rejections simply go with the territory – but if, like me, you’re particularly self-critical, rather than seeking perfection every time ask yourself whether a piece of writing broadly does what you intend it to – that it is ‘good enough’. You might be pleasantly surprised to find others that agree with you.