I attended a writers’ conference out in Portland, Oregon. I spent three days learning how to be better at everything. Agents taught me how to pitch better. Editors taught me how to better structure my manuscript’s first fifty. Successful writers taught me how to make better word choices, create better characters and do a better job outlining my plots. And in the unlikely event that I hadn’t been adequately taking notes or listening, Barnes and Noble had a table there and sold paperback versions of How To Be Better At Everything.
At the end of the second day, I was energized, full of ideas. I went back to my room, pulled out the old laptop, and started writing better. All the advice was working! I solved the problem with that expanse of dialogue. I fixed the major “show don’t tell” violation on page 36. But after an hour or so, I stumbled across a great big gap between my current manuscript and how I now envisioned it. I was too tired to try to fix it—after days of sitting still, my energy was completely inadequate for the task.
So I did what I’ve always done at the end of a long day while working away from home—turned on the television and ordered room service. Like the writing, it was very empowering at first. I ordered a pizza. (When you order a whole pizza for yourself, even if it’s a small one, you’re king of the world.) Then I sat back, picked up the remote, fluffed the pillows, turned the box on, flipped the channels, settled on an old movie, and—
Heard someone tell me I have inadequate eyelashes.
Yes. Like Claire Danes and Brooke Shields, I have inadequate eyelashes.
First I’m told I’m an inadequate writer, and now this. Will I ever be fit to the task of living? What with all my faults?
NOTE TO SELFOur deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
From “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson
but often attributed to Nelson Mandela
Oh, to be over-quoted that way!
There is always someone in this world telling us that we are inadequate. As writers, we put ourselves out for criticism all the time. No one has to tell us the ways in which we don’t measure up, but our editors and readers will anyway. Writers choose to do something that requires a certain level of excellence and constant improvement. With every paragraph, we have another chance. Every novel is a blank slate.
Now all I need is more time, a quiet room and a brand-new tube of mascara.