Let’s be perfectly honest. We’ve all harbored thoughts about our writerly greatness at one time or another. These are the times when we secretly hope we’re better than others, that maybe we won’t get rejected 100 times like everyone else, or that perhaps we’ll be a best seller on our first book.
I had one such recent delusion of grandeur. This past spring my editor at Bethany House told me she would be in contact with me when she started doing her line-edits on The Preacher's Bride. Since I was busy writing my next contracted book, I didn’t think too much about those edits.
But then, weeks and weeks began to pass. I hadn’t heard from my editor in so long, at first I wondered if she’d forgotten about me. Then came the delusion: What if she’d already done the line-edits and everything was so good, that she hadn’t found anything major to contact me about?
Yes, I’m chagrinned—I really did think that—but only in passing. Reality hit when I got an email from my editor not long after. It read: I’ve been really busy with other projects and I haven’t started line edits for The Preacher’s Bride yet. When I get into it, I may have a few questions or things to discuss. If so, I will call or email you.
My visions of glory faded, replaced by a cloud of anxiety. I couldn’t help thinking back to the sweat and tears I’d dripped over my substantive edits. And I quickly realized how foolish I was to think I would be spared the line edits. I’d have to do them, just like every other author in the history of publishing.
Why do we have the tendency to think we’re better than we really are? What is it about the human heart that longs to skip over the muscle-straining, back-breaking work? Why do we so often wish for success without the painful process of getting there?
I have to battle against that tendency to think more highly of myself than I ought. During the struggle to stay grounded, I remind myself of these realities:
*We’re usually never as good as we think we are. We may downplay our writing abilities to others, but inside we often think, “I’m good. If only an agent or editor would take a look, they’d see how good I really am.”
While we do need to have quiet self-confidence and believe in ourselves and our dreams, let’s remember there will always be those better than us, those further along the journey. If we hang onto false impressions of our abilities, then we may lose out on the chance to improve our writing skills and stories.
*We’ll always have to make more changes than we anticipate. Contest judges, critique partners, editors, agents—privately we hope we’ll escape the criticism, that somehow we’ll have gotten it all right and won’t need much, if any, editing.
While we do want to strive to have our work the best it can be, we have to accept the fact that change is an integral part of the publication process. We have to know the heart of what’s truly important to us and keep that in our palm, but then be willing to let the rest slip through our fingers. If we cling to our words too tightly, we may miss opportunities that could propel our careers forward.
*We’ll all have to face rejection. Of course we want to be the one who beats the odds. We harbor the hope that our stories will be universally lauded and applauded by everyone, that we won’t get a scathing review, or stinging comment.
While we do want to minimize our chances of rejection by following guidelines and maintaining professionalism, we can’t possibly hope to be perfect or please everyone. We’ll disappoint some of our readers. Not everyone will agree with everything we write in our blog posts. And not every agent or editor will like our stories. And when we try to please everyone, we only spread ourselves out and make ourselves into somebody we’re not.
So, my final thoughts on combating writerly delusions?
Stay humble. Be willing to change. But be secure in who we are.
‘Fess up! Have you ever had any writerly delusions of grandeur? What do you tell yourself to stay grounded in reality?