I just submitted my memoir manuscript to a publisher. I sweated over every word of the query. I drafted the synopsis and revised it and revised it again so the narrator’s growth was woven into the plot. I fussed over the manuscript sample to make sure it was tight and engaging.
I believe in my book. If I didn’t think it was worthy, I wouldn’t have spent more than 10 years on it.
But as I read and reread my handiwork, doubt crept in. I thought, “Am I wasting my time? Will this book even appeal to the publisher?” I sent it off anyhow.
Next, I polished and fussed with my entry for a writing contest.
Once again, I was assailed by the same suspicion that this is a fool’s errand. I’ve entered that contest half a dozen times and haven’t won yet. Will this year be any different?
Some stubborn, optimistic part of me persists.
While working on these submissions, I countered my doubts with platitudes like, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t try.”
Then I questioned the platitudes. It’s ingrained in the American psyche to believe that you’ll succeed if you try hard enough. That isn’t always true. Sometimes you fail anyhow. Then you have to live with the failure and wonder if it’s your fault because you didn’t try hard enough. Huh?!? What maddening logic.
Americans also love noble failure and tell ourselves, “At least you tried.” That is comforting. Like many Americans, I do believe that it’s better to risk failure than to attempt nothing. Risk is scary, but safety is stifling.
Finally, I come back to Margaret Atwood’s sensible advice: “Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”
I’m going to stop whining. As for the entries? Stay tuned.