Good Enough

Here is a trap to which newer writers are particularly prone. We have the thought, “I don’t know if I am a good enough writer to be published.” This seems like a practical enough thought. Writing magazines and books and writing teachers and writing seminars all preach the importance of craft, that a professional writer must know her craft if she is to tell her stories as well as she can tell them – therefore, it would stand to reason, a published writer is someone who has honed their craft, who has gotten good enough at what they do to get what they write published. So a newer writer, who only writes because she likes to write, who doesn’t know how one measures “enough” when it comes to craft, might wonder, “Am I good enough?” Now the writer’s brain, which has been trained to answer questions with words like "enough" in them, looks about for a test to pass because that is how the brain often measures things, and quickly comes up with, “If you get published, you are good enough.  That is how you will know.”

But it is a lousy test. With this test the writer who has not been published must think, “If I have not been published, then I am not good enough to be published.” It’s a Catch-22. So we insert a “maybe”. Maybe now I am good enough to be published. Except then every time a rejection letter comes back, it is as if the world is saying, “No, you are not good enough.” Now agents and editors are not merely there to serve as conduits for sharing what you love, they have become arbiters of your value. This is not a job anyone wants.

It is true that as with anything, the more you write, the better you will write, and the more you pay careful attention to what you are writing, noticing what you think works and what doesn’t, the better still you will write. But the question, “Am I good enough?” must be banished from your thoughts. Without that thought, you can look at what you have written, and ask simply, “Does this say what I most wanted to say?” If the answer is yes, it is ready to share. You have always been good enough to do whatever it is you love to do. But if you cede that question of what is and isn’t good enough, including you, to the outside world, you are doomed.

In my experience, people only tell you what you have already decided about yourself. This includes your work. Decide for yourself if it truly meets your own strict criteria. If it does, then – and only then – is it good enough

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