Tough Cookie – Do you want it badly enough?

So, a story. Once upon a time I was in the middle of an interview, and this question came up:

What advice do you have for aspiring authors who are still too nervous to share their work?

Now, because it was a phone interview, and being recorded, I did my best to respond with an encouraging message.

But on the inside, I kind of felt like this:

Here’s the thing. If writing makes you happy, do it. Seriously. But there’s a difference between writing and writing for publication. The difference is the “publication” part. And every time I get asked this question (I’m going to start a tally, because it keeps happening), my soul makes that confused puppy face.

Here’s a hard truth: in order to be a published author, you have to be okay with the idea of being published. Not just published actually, but read, judged, critiqued, found wanting, and occasionally drawn and quartered (upside: you also get to be enjoyed, savored, shared, and remembered).

So when I hear that someone is too nervous to share their work, my brain translates that to: NOT READY. If you can’t stomach the idea of being judged, you are not ready for publication.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Readiness is two-fold.

Ready Type 1: Skill.
Ready Type 2: Psychological status.

So the kind of readiness I’m referring to here is the second kind. It is in no way a judgment of talent, only a comment on where your head is. And hand in hand with that NOT READY diagnosis comes are harder one: DOESN’T WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH.

Now, wow, that does seem harsh, but this is what I mean: in order to survive emotionally, you have to want this SO BADLY. You have to want it enough that your want outweighs your fear. Because we’re all afraid. I’ve yet to meet someone who’s not. The difference is that our level of want–not only want to be published, but want to be read, to be shared, to be a part of this community, you choose–OUTWEIGHS THE FEAR. If you’re not there yet, don’t lose hope, you can get there, and probably will. This is NOT a born-ready kind of thing. Some people are. Some people like any form of attention. Some people have an easier time shelving the fear. But for most, we reach that place by degrees.

Here’s the good news. No, the GREAT news. The way we get there is by exposure to rejection, by acclimating to judgement, and this is an industry that offers you rejection and judgement at EVERY STAGE. And it’s there to help you. It’s not there to make you feel bad, but to see if you’re ready.

By making rejection and judgement such an integral part of the early stage, you can test yourself along the way, and you can become accustomed and eventually become more comfortable–it never gets cozy–with putting your work out there.

But be honest with yourself. Figure out why you write, why you want to, and what’s holding you back. Gauge your level of want. And know that it’s meant to be hard. It’s meant to be scary. And if you’re not there yet, if that fear is still just a little bigger than that want, keep going.


9 thoughts on “Tough Cookie – Do you want it badly enough?

  1. Annika says:


  2. Wow. The perfect post. The perfect answer to the requests for advice.

    I’m going to copy it and quote you all the time. Brilliant, really. And not just because that’s a great puppy face, although it IS.


  3. This is the best post ever. Seriously. You’re so honest and it’s all very true. *hugs*

  4. Stephanie says:

    You make a great case for critique groups — they’re a great way to transition into sharing your work with others. Start with a supportive group of like-minded people who will give *constructive* criticism.

    Then, when you know your work is more polished, it’s easier to be more confident. Eventually, you want to shove your work at people and say, “Look what I wrote! Read this!” 🙂

  5. I’m so glad you don’t see mental readiness as a born-ready kind of thing, because I lack it like woah. It’s nice to hear there’s hope for me. : )

  6. I find a similar lack of readiness holds back science practitioners from publicizing their work beyond the confines of their academic circle. Even though the peer-review process within the scientific community offers up the harshest criticism, it is still accepted as fact-based, objective, and hence more palatable. On the other hand, giving media interviews or engaging the broader public is feared by many for the political, social and economic lens these audiences use to judge/critique one’s science.

  7. Melissa says:

    Great post! So very encouraging. It really is important to be able to differentiate between those two kinds of readiness. I wonder if you had to scour the internet for a cute dog with that particular expression or if you already had it and it’s actually what inspired the post? Haha.

  8. Great post! Great advice! Thanks for writing it so I could read it =)

  9. […] Writers ~ From @ veschwab: Tough Cookie — Do you want it badly enough? Schwab does some plain speaking to aspiring authors. Her debut YA novel, The Near Witch, will be […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: