This sweet illustration was sent in my Melissa Iwai. Melissa was featured on Illustrator Saturday.
When I meet a new writer and they ask me for advice, I always point out not to rush to submit what they have written. That advice comes from personal experience and many years of observation. When you are new you think everything you write is wonderful and it isn’t until a few years late and many rejections that you realize you better get into a critique group and learn to revise. The trouble is a writer can go on too long with revisions and setting things aside, so when Bebe sent me this short article I thought it might provide the inspiration you can use going into 2015.
Listening Too much or Self Doubt
By Bebe Willoughby
While people who worked in publishing above us hurried off to the Hamptons on Friday’s early summer dismissal, a co-worker and I stayed in the air conditioned office to write a book on dreams. Our lack of self-confidence prevented us from sending it out.
We tucked the manuscript safely in a drawer , where it stayed for four years. We joined a writing group and brought along the manuscript. The leader, a well-known writer/ illustrator, said it was publishable and encouraged us to send it out. So we did and got a quick call from an editor who wanted to publish it.
I have another tale to tell that involves doubting myself and listening to far too many people. I wrote a short story entitled “Nothing Lasts Forever.” None of my writer friends showed much enthusiasm, and a top editor told me I did not write well enough for major magazines. I lived with that declaration for quite some time. Then a friend who did not work in publishing advised: “send it out. You have nothing to lose.” She, of course, was right, but I had not seen it that way. My tale has a happy ending. The story was published in Seventeen magazine.
I encourage writers to have others read their work, but be careful about listening too hard. In the end, you must trust yourself.
Bebe Willoughby earned a M.F.A.in creative writing at Columbia University and is the author of five works of fiction–four children and one novel for adults. She served for ten years as an editor at Random House.
Bebe, thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us. I hope it inspires everyone to get their revisions done and submit more of their writing and illustrating this year. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be a book contract to be successful. Wishing everyone a very successful 2015. Now’s the time to start think laying out a plan.