A few months ago I submitted a short story of mine to a publication. The publication is a small-time one, hasn’t released its first issue yet (schedule is set for October of 2021), and probably won’t have that strong of a readership during its debut. However, I follow the two founders on Twitter and I just love their enthusiasm and passion for literature and small-time writers so I figured why not give it a shot? The story I submitted was a short story I wrote in the summer of 2020, still in the early days of ramping up my writing from just something I do occasionally to something I work on nearly every day, and despite the year of growth between the original writing of that story and my submission to this startup publication I personally believed that story to be one of the best things I’ve ever written. So instead of holding on to it for myself, I decided to do something I’m really bad at putting it out there. And so I submitted it.
We all have precious ideas. From the book series we want to write but we’re just not “good enough” yet, or an album you want to compose, or even a place you want to travel to, I guarantee you that there is at least one idea in your head that you treat higher than anything else. Inherently there’s nothing wrong with precious ideas, the problem is that sometimes they can become too precious that either it or you will never be “good enough” to do it right.
For instance, the very thing that fuels my fire to write fiction is a story I created back in high school over a decade ago. I’ve given the story a few good attempts since then but never even got past the first act because I wasn’t “good enough”. Not only have I never been “good enough” but the world of the story has grown and changed in my head as I’ve grown that now not only is it just a precious idea it feels like it’s a part of me, and it’s hard to cut a part of you off. When an idea gets to this point you can only ever be disappointed in the final product.
Personally, I’ve found this has made not only completing things hard but also starting them. I don’t want to write a story until I’m “good enough,” I don’t want to start a new podcast or project until I’m “ready.” The same goes with finishing things. I have a lot of incomplete stories because I feel like if I finish them it’s over, I’ve released a part of myself into the world, and then it has to be subjected to the scrutiny of others, and worse: myself. When I submitted my story to that upstart publication I was lucky I had something finished to even submit. Even then I didn’t want it to “leave me” so to speak because in the past year it became precious. Now back to the story I submitted.
A month passed between submission to my first email back from the editor. It was rejected. The tl;dr of their remark wasn’t that it was bad, just not a good fit for their first issue. The editor then gave some of their suggestions for what they’re looking for and for a moment I was like “Thanks for the feedback but I’m happy with what I wrote” (which is true, to an extent). But after thinking about it for an afternoon I had a change of mind, I decided that I would rewrite the story with their notes in mind. And what I produced ended up being, in my opinion, not only better than the first draft but more meaningful to me as a creator. I learned to stop being so precious about my ideas.