Writers continually question themselves. Is this idea worth pursuing? Are my characters realistic? Is this plot twist surprising? Could I have worked harder to hit my word count? One of the most frustrating questions they ask is, Am I good enough?
It’s frustrating because there isn’t a straight-up answer. There’s no test you can take or app you can use. Even if you have confirmation from fellow writers, readers, or publishers, you’ll still be looking for that answer. It’s the nature of being a writer, to constantly doubt yourself, to compare your words to the words of others and wonder where it is that you measure up.
I wish I could just type it right here and give you the assurance that you’re looking for, but it doesn’t work like that. Not for me and not for you. You won’t believe me. Partly because of the self-doubt, but also because you’ve come to this blog from Facebook or Instagram. From the place full of feeds where other writers have spent the day adding 3,000 words to their WIP when you’ve only managed to write 3. You’ve seen the wordsmiths who are popping champagne after signing with the first agent they queried when you were rejected by that same agent a year ago. And you’ve spent the morning reading about the novelists who aren’t shy about the fact they only took up writing as a hobby two years ago and have just signed a publishing contract, while you the I’ve-wanted-to-do-this-my-whole-life writer, has been receiving nothing but rejections for three straight years.
Are those writers better than you? Are you less talented than them? It’s easy to think you must be. After all, they are signing contracts that will see their manuscripts turned into books, whilst the only thing your manuscript has done is collect enough rejections so that the story you poured your soul in to, received great beta feedback on and was brave enough to send out, is now something you hate. It represents failure, rejection, and what you can only assume must be the absolute truth that you are not good enough.
But you shouldn’t assume that. You can’t assume that. You don’t know if you’re not good enough. You don’t even know if those other writers are good enough, not until you’ve read their work, and even then, I’m sure you know of plenty of books that have been published where you wondered how on earth that manuscript made it out of the slush pile.
So question it. Wonder if you’re good enough. Vent that you don’t know if you are (perhaps in a self-serving, therapeutic blog post?). Complain that everyone else is getting a break and that you’re not, and then scream (or cry) into a pillow that you want your turn. Then, when you’ve finished venting, complaining, screaming and sobbing, ask yourself not if you’re good enough, but if you’ve done enough?
Have you written today (either 3 words or 3,000, both are great)? Have you really listened to your beta readers, friends, agents or publishers who included the unicorn of responses and gave you constructive feedback? Did you apply those changes or think you know better and refuse? Did you read all the books or take all of the courses you can about writing and editing? Have you given your all to your manuscript and changed those darlings you know should be cut? Have you tried every option you have to get published and not just a handful of agents and then called it a day? If you have tried all these things, and are still trying, then you are good enough.
You’re good enough to call yourself a writer, and one day you may be the story someone else reads about and wonders if you are better than them.
Every writer is on their own journey. You can’t control it. You can’t predict when your time will come—or even if your time will come at all. All you can do is write the best way you know how. Submit again even when it’s rejection after rejection, and learn and grow as a writer. Those are the things that you should be asking of yourself, not questions that you can’t answer. And in doing those things, you won’t have to question if you’re good enough because your actions will prove that you are.
— K.M. Allan