So I turned in my first writing assignment today, feeling all happy and accomplished. I was even fantasizing about how I can put a link in my blog to this article when it gets published. And then I got an email saying that my article has been reviewed and requires rewrites.
As you know, I am not good with negative feedback, so I tried to prepare myself for the worst: What if they say it’s all wrong? Then I’ll just correct it and give them what they want. That sounds easy enough. And then I read the comments.
I have to give the editor credit; that was the most constructive way possible of saying that my article sucked. I didn’t answer the person’s question. I used examples more appropriate for middle-aged women than the teenagers and young adults who read the website. I had one good sentence in the entire article. I didn’t use AP format. I didn’t follow the writing guidelines.
I’m sure she was thinking, did you not read any of the materials we sent you?! I did! I really did. Except for the AP manual. I haven’t gotten it in the mail yet. I really wanted to get started, and I thought, how different can it be from APA or MLA format?
Would it be unprofessional if I wrote “Oops!” in the notes to the editor section?
My first thought was to quit since I obviously have no idea what I’m doing. But then I decided to write myself a pep talk: You work closely with an editor for the first 3 assignments for a reason; you’re supposed to suck. In fact, I bet they give writers that bonus after the 3rd article because some people get so demoralized by all the rewrites that they give up.
Then I worked on the rewrite for several hours. I have another draft but I have no idea whether this version is any better than the first one because I don’t trust my judgment anymore. I guess this is why people are afraid to get their hopes up; the fall is so much higher from the grandiose cloud that I was floating on.
I may not be good with positive feedback, but I am the Mt. Everest climber of impossible tasks. Knitting pattern that is far more complicated than my skill level? I’ll have it done by Christmas. My football team is 2-5? Well, we still have 4 more chances to win! My tennis team is 1-6? I’ll just pretend that we are in our second season, and we’re only down 0-1 in this one.
Sometimes it helps to be a little delusional. If we made all of our decisions based on what we think we are capable of, we may never take the risk of finding out what is possible.
Well, as someone who has worked as an editor with 488,228 1/4 writers, let me say that I believe there have been 2 (maybe 3) who read the brief before writing the first draft. And despite the fact that I've read the following comment about 477,201 times, it still enrages me:
“I figured I'd just write my first draft as fast as possible and without really giving it much thought because your comments are always so helpful, and I figure it makes more sense to really make an effort on the second draft after I've gotten those comments.”
I can't help wondering if, false flattery aside, they've considered the fact that by rushing through the first draft, they've increased my workload a hundredfold (or so).
That said, keep on writing, Christy! I love this stuff. (Except for the sports references. I skip those. Unless, of course, they're about athletes praying before a game.)
Thanks Joe. I actually spent many hours on that first draft, and it looks like I'll spend many more on the next. So I think I'm going to make even less money than I do for my knitting! But that's OK. I'm not really doing it for the money. I guess this is just what it's going to be like, becoming a writer. My first lesson: don't get too attached to your draft, no matter how good you think it is; you may have to change it completely.
I suspected that you're among the 11,027 1/4 writers who work hard on the first draft. And you're absolutely right that you shouldn't get too attached to the first draft. Also, you should take the negative feedback with a grain of salt (though, realistically, you do have to take it). When I've trained editors and looked at their first-draft feedback before they sent it off, I was truly appalled by how unsupportive and, frankly, degrading it was. Based on my limited experience, most editors don't understand that you need to say at least as much positive as negative. (And there's nothing phony about that. It motivates the writer and moves them faster to the final draft … assuming the positive feedback you give is sincere.)