Feel Nervous About Submitting Your Writing? Why That’s a Good Thing

Feel Nervous About Submitting Your Writing? Why That’s a Good Thing

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?

Filed Under: Craft
Blogger Sophie Lizard

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15 comments

  • Marcy McKay says:

    Every writer on the planet should read this post, Jeff. I know I’m on the right track with my writing when I have an equal amount of feeling both THRILLED and TERRIFIED with my work. Great suggestions, too. Thanks.

    • Jeff Byrnes says:

      Marcy, thanks so much for your feedback and praise! I think you’re right on the money when you say that you need to have that equal balance of thrill and terror with your work; that’s what hones our skills!

      –Jeff

  • PJ Braley says:

    What kills my heart is query letters. I work on each one for hours, trying to make it perfect – that elusive perfection that will strike fire in the imagination of a prospective agent or publisher. I don’t have butterflies in my stomach when I press the ‘send’ key, I have tigers.

    • Jeff Byrnes says:

      PJ,

      I can certainly understand that; I feel the same way when I send out a query letter or bid on a project. It’s a healthy thing (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

      –Jeff

  • Robin Botie says:

    Thank you for this. It comes at a perfect time as I am about to submit my first query to an agent after writing my manuscript and rewriting my manuscript for three years. Yes, being nervous about rejection is what has kept me from submitting my work. I’m taking this post as a sign that it’s okay to take the plunge. And I’ll reread it right after I send in the query.

  • Heather says:

    I have taken a hiatus from writing since having kids…it’s been about 11years. But, I really want to get back into it. I can relate to writing bids, proposals or other inquiries. So far, I’ve gotten nuttin’. I’ve done tons of research of where to apply, but for some reason can’t bring myself to write. Any ideas or advice?

    • Jeff Byrnes says:

      Just write whatever comes to mind. Anne Lamott suggests freewriting stream-of-consciousness style, putting the pen to the paper and not lifting it until you’ve written for 5 or 10 minutes. What you write might be mostly rubbish (she uses harsher language than that), but there will usually be a golden thread in there that you can follow and unravel to get something truly wonderful.

  • Dee Jannereth says:

    I really appreciate your input on this scary subject. I have been writing for about 5 years (serious writing) and am just starting to send my stories (children’s) out. I made a list of about 30 publishers/agents and sent out 18 last week. I’m sending out 12 more tomorrow. Since many companies will allow multiple submissions, it makes it much easier now. I just finally made up my mind to “just do it.” They don’t know I’m out there if I don’t let them read my work. It is still scary, but It’s my goal in life, and at the top of my bucket list…to get published. Your words of support and knowledge are so much needed for us “newbies”…we thank you so much for your time.

  • Adrian says:

    I want to thank you for your article. I do feel as if the time will come when “someone sees me for the charlatan” that I am. I have freelanced in the past with good results and reviews, even wrote a humorous ebook (not published) which friends give good reviews, however I don’t think my work is good enough. This article is the nudge I need to beginning writing for my website again and, who knows, send the ebook out for publishing. Thanks again.

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