I’ve covered motivation, goals, and writing habits a few times in this blog, but I wanted to talk about a recent experience I had with a short story I’m working on. Before we get into that, though, a quick update!
I managed to finish round 1 of edits on my novel, Rat. Round 1 of a few, unfortunately, but progress is progress! Like I talked about in the blog “Editing Hell”, I’ve got a few to get through, but I was very glad to be able to read to the end of the piece, have notes on the printed manuscript and a notebook, and not HATE the novel. Like I had said earlier, editing was one of the most confronting things I’ve done. The combination of Imposter Syndrome and just general, run-of-the-mill anxiety was brutal to what little self esteem and self worth I had accumulated over the process of writing and rewriting up to revision 6 (the current revision).
So, while going through the novel was frustrating, confronting, and grueling, when I got to the end, I actually felt a bit of an upswing in energy. Whatever the novel is, it’s workable. It’s malleable. And it’s plodding on towards a finished product.
Alright, let’s talk about this short story. This thorn in my side since last October. I don’t even have a title for it, gods damn it! I mean, I’ve had a couple, but nothing has stuck. And there’s still a lot of work to do.
As you may have read, I started working on a short story with a specific publication in mind. As I got near the end, the deadline was moved up, I wasn’t able to submit, and all the wind in my sails evaporated. I put the short story aside and let it collect dust in a drawer for two-ish months.
With the first round of edits done on Rat v6.0, I began to toy with the idea of blowing the dust off that short story and submitting it broadly. I sent it to a few trusted friends, those with a critical eye and experience in writing, and basically asked for encouragement. Was this something I should keep working on or should I let it be?
Asking for help was useful, but it also left me feeling… slimy. I couldn’t help but think that, ultimately, it was up to me whether I should keep working on it. I shouldn’t need outside validation or confirmation to work on a piece, right? Or was that voice wrong? I still don’t know.
What I do know is, I got the feedback I wanted and needed and I decided to start working on it again. Last night, at a writing session, I had a bit of a breakthrough with it, even.
Was it selfish or wrong of me to seek out that outside feedback? Should I have trusted in my own gut more and done the legwork to determine if the short story was worth continuing? Should I have never let it gather dust to begin with?
Or, should I get out of my own head, be thankful that I have some renewed energy in this short story, and get to work?
I try to take each experience and learn something from it (sometimes successfully, even), but I don’t want to stay in this whirlwind of questions and doubts. There’s enough of that when you’re a writer. I should just take the win, right?
I suppose I’ll try that and if the situation comes up again, I’ll think back to this moment and see if there’s anything I will do differently.
But here’s the message (even if I don’t apply it to myself): You’re not alone. There’s a wonderful writing community all around the world. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
…but you shouldn’t count on others for your motivation…