I was in the car with a friend recently. She was gushing about an author and what a great writer she is.
While I, too, love great writing and appreciate great authors, in this moment, for some reason, my inner critic closed my heart. I felt jealousy and a sense of less-than.
“I don’t think I’m a great writer,” I confessed. She was shocked. She sees me as an accomplished writer with books and plenty of other writing under my belt.
It’s true that I am prolific. Even my inner critic can’t deny that. But I go dark side and don’t know how good I am. My clients face this, too. Accomplished authors feel this. It seems our communal, number one fear is: Will my writing be good enough?
The problem with good enough
The problem with our concern about whether our writing is ‘good enough’ is that ‘good enough’ isn’t a specific target. How, exactly, will we know when it is ‘good’? When someone else validates it? When someone else agrees to publish it? When we get paid or win an award?
Most of the writing I’ve done in 25 years hasn’t earned me the big bucks or garnered prestigious awards. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good.
I remember a day when I clarified what ‘good enough’ meant for me. I made the decision to self-publish my Paris novel Chasing Sylvia Beach. I realized I didn’t need someone in the publishing industry to approve and signal that it was a ‘breakout novel’. The power and self-acceptance I claimed felt so good.
I had the same feeling with my last book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing a World-Changing Book. I wasn’t trying for ‘great writing’. I wasn’t aiming to be clever or demonstrate how ‘good’ I am as a writer. I was simply aiming for clarity so my readers would be inspired to take immediate action toward writing their own books.
Same happened with my podcast essays. I hoped to write honest, humorous and authentic essays. I wanted to move my listeners with stories that showed how we all face stumbling blocks in the creative process. At first I read books about how to ‘write funny’. And consumed storytelling books. And listened to others’ podcasts.
For sure, a certain amount of study of our craft is necessary. We can always improve. No matter how talented you are, your free writes will nee editing. Getting constructive feedback and practicing our craft is part of the game.
And, there comes a time when we have to shut off the hose of information and turn to our own deep well and write from there. When you have to trust that your writing is good enough. You have to relinquish control and release it into the world. It will or will not meet your readers in the way you hope.
I am fortunate that I spend a lot of time writing. This gives me a chance to both continue to work my craft and to let go of insecurities about whether the writing is ‘good’. As you see, these insecurities still arise. But my definition of great writing has changed. It’s less about whether someone else is approving of it. My metric for good writing these days is whether I am being as honest and wholehearted as I can be.
Over to you
If you live alongside the ‘good enough’ gremlin, I invite you to get clear on what ‘good’ is for you now. Do a free-write to clarify your own metrics for good writing. What does this spark in you? Leave a comment below let us know your relationship to ‘good enough’.