Assessing your work and acknowledging areas for growth will create new frontiers for your craft and, more importantly, an authentic existence as an author.
You have been pouring your heart and soul onto the page, traveling through distant lands, exploring characters’ idiosyncrasies, and wrestling with words. You are telling the story you are meant to tell. That feels good, doesn’t it?
The Naked Artist
And, now, as you come up for air, you are surrounded by thousands of words—all of which represent your greatest hopes and your greatest fears. Your work undeniably represents an intimate part of you. Now, it’s time to examine where you have been and where you still need to go as a writer.
Welcome to the least popular stage of creativity—setting your vulnerabilities aside and objectively reviewing your work. During this stage, both self-assessment and external critique are vital.
Embrace Your Growing Pains
To objectively evaluate your growth as an author, you must set your creative voice on the shelf (but, wait. . .WHAT? It took so long for it to reveal itself. . .AAACK!), and invite your analytical and logical mind to the table. Because writing and evaluation are distinct tasks, you should avoid frustrating yourself by doing them simultaneously; in other words, only start the assessment process when you are at a point in your writing where you can step away from your creative drive without losing creative momentum.
In addition, this is the time you should start to consider the idea of sharing your work with other people. Yes, revealing yourself this way can be daunting, and feelings of vulnerability are normal. But allowing others to review your work is an essential part of your development as an author—only by sharing your work and understanding areas for improvement will you be able to expand your craft.
So, if you are not already part of a supportive network of other authors who can provide constructive feedback about your work, perhaps you should find one in your community or online. If that is too uncomfortable at this stage, no worries! Perhaps, you have a mentor, teacher, coach or friend who can share her experiences as a writer to provide trusted guidance on ways to stretch your wings.
While you may have a lot to say as a writer, truly refining your craft requires an overall evaluation of your skills within the context of a particular project. For example, is your story appropriately answering your work’s compelling question? Is your writing appropriately showing (rather than just telling) your readers your protagonists’ wants, needs, and stake in the plot? Cutting your own words can be brutal, and you may experience fears of judgment and imperfection during this process.
Acknowledging how far you’ve come and how far you have yet to go (no matter how much experience you have) is a critical part of the journey. Only by humbly stepping away from and objectively reviewing your work can you acknowledge what works for your writing, differentiate yourself from your mentors and teachers, and begin to fully master your authentic voice.
Meeting The One
If you successfully detach, evaluate, acknowledge, and act on areas for growth, you will quickly take true ownership of your writing. You will begin to realize that YOU are the one you’ve been waiting for throughout this creative process. This critical turning point is where you will enter a new world of creative development, where acceptance replaces fear, where your craft aligns more closely with your voice, and your old assumptions disappear. While this will initially feel unfamiliar, you will soon recognize it as confidence and freedom to fully express your creative voice in ways that will resonate with your readers.