the washerwoman

Recently, I was chatting to a friend about our goals in relation to our writing, and we touched upon the subject of knowing when it’s ready.

It’s important to have the ability to gauge your progress as a writer. Part of that comes down to knowing when your work has reached a sufficient level of quality that it can be shopped around.

Perhaps my standards are too high, but “sufficient level of quality” for me means that even if the work doesn’t sell that it will leave a positive and memorable impression with the reader.

Often, there is a burning desire on the completion of a piece of writing to send it out, enter it into competitions, and apply for grants, etc. You have to be realistic about this urge, and you need to be able to answer the following question objectively: “Is it ready?”

My aim is that my writing should impress the reader on a number of levels: professionalism, craft, story, and originality. The last thing I want is for my name to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

I can improve the first impression an editor/producer/agent will have of my writing by working on it until it is ready. It is entirely within my control.

Thus I need a pragmatic attitude towards my work. Usually, I have to go away from a project for a number of days/weeks/months in order to get some perspective on it. If it’s a script I need about 4-6 weeks. With a short story it might be only a couple of days, or a week or two. During that period I seek feedback from my peers. Afterwards, I need a period of time to consider and incorporate the suggestions before I can tackle the piece again.

Normally I have a number of projects so that when I finish one I can roll on to another without any gap in my output.

Write, write, write.

It’s the only mantra worth repeating.

Unless it’s:

Write, re-write, write, re-write, write, re-write… lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s time to get back to the washing.


  • Danny

    That’s it all right. And to be secure and knowledgable enough to calmly react to criticism rather than fall about in a sensitive sulk.

  • Maura

    I think the best advice you can take in relation to receiving feedback is to remember that it’s not personal. Even when it feels like it is.Perhaps the best way you can learn to deal with this is to make sure you get feedback on your work on a regular basis. Build up those layers of thick skin!My advice to anyone in a workshop environment is to note the strengths in a piece, and what works. Start, and end, on a positive note. If the feedback is 100% negative it will only succeed in depressing the writer.It’s hard to listen to tough criticism of your work, but as long as you have hope that something in it is working, then you can forge on and tackle the project anew. Often, I feel energised after my work is dissected because it gives me the opportunity to look at my writing in new ways and, ultimately, I can make it better. I try to be positive about every situation, even when my heart feels like it has been crushed. 😉

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