Does this story sound familiar?
Whenever I submit something I’ve written for a client, I develop a nervous twitch. I wonder if the client is going to like what I’ve written, or if they’ll think it’s absolute garbage.
No matter how much time and effort I’ve put into it, how much of my soul I’ve poured out onto the page, I wonder if this will be the time when someone sees me for the charlatan of a writer my self-condemning alter ego insists I am.
“There, that’s the one,” he says. “That’s the one who’s going to finally tell you just how horrible a writer you really are!”
This nervousness and anxiety, I’ve come to realize, is actually a good thing, if it’s properly harnessed. You just have to make sure you don’t allow that evil alter ego to speak too loudly, or to convince you that you’re a lousy writer. The trick is in finding the right balance and using your nervousness as motivation.
Are you really that good?
If you have no anxiety about your writing at all, you might fail to take constructive criticism seriously — and miss a chance to improve your craft. On the other hand, if you allow yourself to be convinced you cannot write, you might give up altogether.
The nervousness and anxiety are what propel you to continue honing your skills. If you truly thought you already knew everything there was to know about writing, it wouldn’t be fun or challenging anymore, and there would be little reason to continue doing it. As long as you feel like you have more to learn, though, you will keep working to refine your skills and become an even better writer.
Anxiety and writer’s block
This feeling of anxiety isn’t the same as the “writing anxiety” that can block your writing and cripple you as a writer, although these are also often signs that you have a healthy regard for wanting to improve your writing. Writer’s block is a symptom of that same condition, but it isn’t the only symptom.
No, the kind of anxiety I’m talking about develops after the writing is done. It’s the feeling that the work isn’t quite finished or isn’t quite good enough. You’ve probably felt this from time to time — if not every time you finish a project. The key is to not let this feeling stop you from submitting the work.
Donald M. Murray describes this issue quite eloquently in his essay “The Maker’s Eye.” He rebukes the illusion that a written work can ever be finished, arguing that “a piece of writing is never finished. It is delivered to a deadline, torn out of the typewriter on demand, sent off with a sense of accomplishment and shame and pride and frustration.”
Harness that anxiety!
Use your anxiety to fuel your revisions. Allow yourself to detach from what you’ve written and read it as if you were a stranger to the piece. By becoming your reader, you can look for what the reader wants to find in your writing: information, a call to action, entertainment or a mixture of all of the above.
Being anxious and slightly nervous about the quality of your work is a good sign that you are passionate about your writing. If you lack passion, you could find your writing career coming to an abrupt end.
How do I know when enough revision is enough?
You need to find the healthy balance between revising, rewriting, and realizing that the piece is due and it is time to turn it in. Take to heart all of the praise you’ve received for your writing, and realize that while what you have written may not be perfect, it is high-quality work that possesses all of the soul and heart you can pour into it.
If you read it as a stranger and find within your words the information, call to action, entertainment, or whatever you wanted the reader to get out of it, hand it in! You’ll likely have another opportunity to revise it after your client or editor has a look and shares her comments.
Not convinced? Here’s a perfect example: I revised this particular post several times before I took a deep breath and submitted it to the editors, and then revised it once more after their feedback!
What if the client really does hate my work?
It’s possible that one day, a client may not like what you’ve written. When that time does come, take it in stride. Not everyone has the same preferences; not everyone likes the same movies, so why would everyone like the same style of writing? Ask for their feedback on how to revise the work: do you need to work on better emulating the client’s voice, strengthening your self-editing skills, or creating clearer calls to action?
Learn from your mistakes, and move on to make your writing even better.
[bctt tweet=”Learn from your mistakes, and move on to make your writing even better, says @byrneswritenow”]
A writer needs to have thick skin and be able to handle constructive criticism without taking it personally. As with any form of art, your skills and abilities should constantly be improving, and you should be able to take constructive feedback and use it to improve your art.
You’re passionate about your writing — but recognize that with that passion comes some anxiety and nervousness. Just don’t let your nerves rule you — use them to motivate you to strengthen your skills.
Do you ever feel anxious before submitting client work or pressing “publish” on a blog post? What do you do?