A few years ago, I realized I was living in security, when what I really needed was to live in insecurity. And I might add I’ve been a security addict my entire life. Old habits, fearing the consequences — like the kind your mother threatened if you didn’t eat the peas. Well, those consequences hang around if you don’t tell them to leave. They whisper from your shoulder, tell you if you do this or risk that, something awful is going to happen. Awful as in what? Getting older, fatter, and forgetting what you wanted to be when you grew up? I’m no expert, but something tells me that’s happening anyway.
And here’s the thing — no one knows where your fear resides better than you do. Steven Pressfield’s insight is that fear is the outward sign of inward resistance. And what we often resist is taking the risk to follow the muse, speak our own voice, tell our own story. Perhaps that’s why a writer turns to friends and family for feedback on their manuscript, rather than professional beta readers who might provide constructive criticism. Why she might tell herself, just one more rewrite and then I won’t need an editor to point out where I’m not telling the right story.
No writer, or any other creative, likes the palpitations of insecurity. They keep you from finishing the pivotal scene, or the chapter that ends the middle build, except it comes too early in the story. Maybe it’s the self-publishing research you started eight months ago, where you discovered all the needs: the need to be famous, to established an internet footprint, grow a following of email subscribers. Lists of things to accomplish before you even think about writing a novel. I know. I’ve been researching, not for eight months but long enough to see the challenges ahead.
But insecurity holds you back from necessary growth. It’s like a water bug, hiding at the edge of the stream. There it lurks, beneath the pretty foliage, until you stick your foot into the water. Then, all skittering legs and fat body, it runs across your ankle and you jerk back to safer ground. But why do we react to him? He’s just dinner for some trout swimming by.
“They say that when you get good enough to realize how bad your work is, rejoice. Many writers don’t make it that far. I just wish whoever said that told me what to do next, after all that rejoicing. Do you burn the rotten work?”
I am a writer. And as a writer, I don’t want to live in security, and I don’t want to write for an audience of one. My job, then, is to deliver, and when I’ve failed in my story telling, I need to know. The first step is quality beta readers. The second enters the world of editing.
From my personal experience with beta readers, I can recommend Rachel Daven Skinner, from Romance Refined. This is an honest recommendation without benefit to me (seems odd to need to say that, but it’s necessary). I requested three beta readers and after providing the details of the manuscript, the work was matched with experienced genre readers. The subsequent reports contained answers to over 100 critical structural questions. The information was concise, insightful and — while uncomfortable to read the first time through — proved to be accurate when I looked back at what I had written.
And that’s at the heart of the resistance. After spending months writing, it’s difficult to realize you’re only half-way there. Where will the ideas come from? You have to fix that opening scene and you don’t know how. But rewriting doesn’t mean destruction. Drastic actions aren’t always required. I look at it this way — if I feel compelled to express a universal truth in some form, be it art, writing, poetry, or music, what good does it do to ignore where I’ve failed? Wouldn’t that be defeating the whole purpose?
Besides, I’m tired of burning the rotten work.
Thanks for spending the past few minutes with me ~ I know time is precious.