No matter what sort of writer you happen to be, there is some part of you that is confident. Putting the words in your head onto the page is the first demonstration of that confidence. Sharing them with others is the second. Asking for help is the third, and it is here that many writers fail.
As in many things, it is easier to quit than ask for help.
I kid quite a bit on this site about being a bad writer, but in truth, it’s far easier to be a martyr for your art than to be an actual artist. It’s easier to simply say that your book or story is no good and put it away rather than get down to the hard work of turning it over to more capable hands for serious evaluation and assistance.
Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the completion of my second novel. I didn’t have a cake, nor did I light a candle. In fact, I didn’t even realize it had been five years until someone asked me about the book last night:
“Why do you think it was bad?”
The answers ranged from the obvious (the person I paid to read the book couldn’t finish it) to pure avoidance (I “over-edited” the book). I also tried to frame my answer by trying to change the medium (the book would make a better play than a novel).
“Did you share the book with other writers or do you keep it under your mattress?”
I did share the book with a few writer-types I know. Those who managed to make it through the work panned it. To give a you a flavor of the comments, I one fellow put his copy in the closet and came across it recently when he was getting ready to move:
“Can you believe I actually sat down and read it? I mean, it sucks of course, but I think it’s amazing that you finished it.”
There are parts of the book that are funny and there are parts that are poignant and yes there are parts that do indeed suck. The same could be said about most books. Mine is really no different, but what is different is that I have never asked for help. I paid someone to read it and proof it, but that is hardly the same thing as asking for help.
As a result, the novel I wrote five years ago has indeed slept beneath my metaphysical mattress. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience?
How to Ask for Help?
Well, you could start a blog and write about your failures as a writer and hope that someone will come along and take pity on you…
On second thought, perhaps that’s not the best advice.
Actually, I’m hoping that you will help me fill in the blank here. (see I’m asking for help) I would love to hear from writers and editors on this subject. I’ve read a lot of books on writing and this is one area that seems to get glossed over and yet I think it is critical to moving on from Manuscript-Under-The-Mattress Syndrome.