I’ve often been surprised by the number of writers who send me a lovely manuscript but preface the submission by telling me it probably isn’t any good. I'm so glad they are able to overcome their self-doubt enough to get their work out there . . . and I know that many writers must be letting excellent work languish in a desk drawer (well, more likely on a hard drive these days, but you know what I mean) for fear of having someone say the work isn't good enough.
Now, there are a lot of ways to show your work to people and get feedback. Writing classes and seminars, for instance, not only offer concrete suggestions but help writers get used to sharing and discussing their work. Of course, attending something like that can be daunting. I often think I should hold a seminar specifically designed for timid writers. (There might have to be booze.)
Editors can offer good feedback and suggestions too, even if a manuscript is in the early stages and not yet ready for editing. And a good editor will always be helpful and supportive. We don’t sit around gleefully sharpening our red pencils and waiting to tear authors to bits while shrieking, “Not who, WHOM!” Good editors get into editing because we love not only books but writers and the art of writing. We want to help you and your writing shine—and we'll celebrate with you when it does. So take a deep breath and reach out to us. Remember, no one can write your life or your thoughts like you can, and we're here to help!
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.
I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.
Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which
The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.
I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash
And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark
And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,
And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,
It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.
It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.