Monday, August 31, 2009

This Is Definitely NOT Good Enough!

I try to work out a few times a week. (Italics are there for a reason.) Pretty much, that means that if I have time, if I'm not busy, if I'm not getting home late, if I'm not in the middle of a good book or if the Food Network isn't making cakes and I'm not glued to the TV and can't budge off the couch where the steadily growing puddle of drool is, then I put on my sneakers and workout.

It can be painful. Sometimes, if it's been a while since I worked out (like if it's Cake Week or something), it can be very painful. I'll be giving it everything I've got and my muscles just ache. And I know my form is waaaay off.

It's not good. It's definitely not good enough to do in front of someone else.

Sometimes I feel like this with my writing. I can be working as hard as I can on a story and when it comes down to showing it to someone or worse, proposing it to a publisher, I decide it's good enough for me, but definitely not good enough for public viewing.

I remember the first time I ever showed someone who wasn't related to me my work. She was an English major. And so, she returned my story to me with red pen written all over it. Apparently, I have a fondness for fragments in my writing. And run-on sentences. And sideline characters who don't behave like they should. And a propensity to start in the middle of a sentence instead of the beginning.

All acceptable in fiction. Not so much for an English major.

My mom told me that one woman's criticism did not mean that my work wasn't good. I said, "Yeah, you're right." But seriously - she's my mom, you think she'd tell me otherwise?

It took me a little while to show my writing to anyone after that.

My biggest insecurity when it comes to my writing? People won't like it. And then, people won't like me.

Here's something you know if you're a writer: Anything you write is an extension of you. Whether it's a book, a short story, an article or a postcard, it's a reflection of you and your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Writing is hard, personal work. So, when you get criticism, it's even harder to not take it personally.

After some amazing classes and two incredible mentors in the Christian Writers Guild (and a fabulous family who has always had my back!), I've started to develop a thicker skin. I've seen a lot more stories covered in red ink and a lot more rejection letters than I've ever wanted to see, but I've gotten past it.

The thing that helped me most, though, was remembering why I write. I love to write, yes, but the real reason I write is because I want to spread the love of Jesus.

1 Peter 5:12b says: "My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens."

So, next time you've made yourself vulnerable and you're faced with that ugly red pen, take a deep breath. Remember Who gave you this desire to write. Then, toughen up and make your writing the best it can be. God deserves nothing less.


  1. Wow, great post, Erynn. I've always felt that we need to use the gifts and talents that God has given us for Him. We may feel that our writing isn't as good as this person or that person, but if God gave us the talent, He must have meant for us to use it in someway, right? :)
    And so true... writing IS personal. Even when we write about subjects that have nothing to do with us, it's personal because we poured all of our emotions into that piece of work. Thanks for this post... it gave me a lot to think about :)

  2. Girl, I have the worst, grossest, snottiest cold this week -- and guess who's keeping me company? Miss Match.

    I can personally say your writing gets an A+. Thanks for plugging along and persevering. And by the way... moms are always right.

  3. I was the brand-new baby in my writer's group when when I brought in my first piece for critique. I forced my voice to stay controlled as I read aloud the opening chapter of a YA novel I was working on, while tucked under the table out of sight, my hands ricocheted all over my lap. When it was over, I laid down the work and took a mental step backward, offering up my heart and soul for slaughter, as Abraham did with his beloved son Issac all those years ago.

    Dramatic? Yes. But that's honestly what it felt like. I told them to let me have it. I'd never really been critiqued by anyone other than my husband before (and English is his second language) and I wanted to know, once and for all, if I had any business at all masquerading as a writer.

    They jumped right in with their comments, theorizing about character development and POV and plot pacing. And though the criticism was constructive, it was still criticism, and there was just SO MUCH of it! My heart was doing a bobbing act, sinking and rising, until one elderly lady at the end who had stayed quiet throughout the discussion spoke up and said, "This is all well and good. But we're forgetting about her question. You want to know if you're a writer? Oh, honey, YES YOU ARE."

    Those last three words stuck in my heart and filled me with such an overwhelming sense of relief. I was judged and found worthy of the dream.

    In the year since then, I've developed a little thicker skin, but I've also learned not to ask for an opinion until I'm truly ready to hear the answer. I guard my work like secrets, only revealing it to the right people at the right time.

    Great post today, Erynn!

  4. So important to remember, Erynn, and yet I forget all the time. Thanks for reminding me to remember why I write!

  5. Such a good post Erynn, with a ton of good points! Thanks for your thoughts, they're very encouraging. :)