I have the best father-in-law a writer could wish for: a father-in-law who also writes, and who is a kind and wise person. Earlier this summer, when I was having a desperate, burned-out day, I wrote a post for my personal blog expressing all my doubts and misgivings about the writing thing. I got the following message from Duane a while later. I’d like to post it here–I hope he doesn’t mind (have your lawyers call my lawyers, Duane!)–because I think it’s something that all writers, artists, speakers, and creators need to hear from time to time.
Read your update. Need to tell you some things you already know, but probably have forgotten.
1. You are totally engaged in your writing. Your readers are not. But they appreciate from time to time picking up your work and enjoying it. 99% of them will never tell you they had fun reading it. But neither will they tell you if they don’t like it. Feedback will be rare and mostly nonexistent.
2. What drives you to write every day? Your own internal need to tell a story, not what others may say about the story.
3. Self doubts are always ready to discourage. But you know in your heart that you are putting pretty good stuff together. You worry about your technique, and your sentence structure, and grammar, and pacing, and many other things. But most readers are not critics – they just want a good read. If they don’t like your writings, it will not be because of your lack of competence – it will be generally be the wrong genre for their interest.
4. When you do get feedback from a trusted source, grab hold of it and hang on. It may have to last for a long time. In the meantime, remind yourself that this is good stuff you’re turning out. You like it, and you are a discriminating reader. I like my own stuff and tear up sometimes at the end of an emotional chapter – even though I have read the same chapter many times.
5. There is no single technique for successful storytelling. James Michener used little dialogue. Many modern critiques want the entire story in dialogue. I have come to believe that writing styles are like painting styles: they run the gamut – there are no absolutes. Find a style you think best exposes the story and record it that way.
Keep going. I think you’re doing a great job.