Nate Pruitt published his first book, Creative in God's Image: Engaging the Creative Good, and has some wonderful advice to share for his fellow writers. It was a pleasure meeting him at the Launch Out conference, and I love his resilient attitude. It's contagious!
I wrote, and published, the worst book I have ever written. I only have one book published, but there are moments when I view it as my worst book.
That may be easier to explain this way: I grew up in a two-child family. There were days when my brother and I got along famously. Not all days were like that, though. Some days—in mild disgust—I would let my brother know that he was “my least favorite brother.” The statement was inescapable, due to the limited realm of options, but it didn’t mean it was a fair thing to speak.
My only book to date receives the same treatment. I have to remember that my assessments aren’t necessarily fair. The point isn’t that I would like to tweak how I approached an issue in chapter three, feel I should have pushed for some minor changes in the colors used for the cover art, or been more thorough with my physical copy proof. Although I will strongly advise against approving your run of physical copies based on the digital proofs at three in the morning. At that hour, fatigue may lead to limited mental faculties that cause you to miss the complete absence of page numbers. Still, looking at such things so negatively robs me of the ability to grow and improve going forward. Instead, they mire me down in my past mistakes.
Mistakes were made, it’s true. But mistakes allow us to grow, adapt, and improve. The beauty of reprints can feel life-giving. Talking to Amazon support to get your different versions of the same book shared on one page can seem scary, until you realize you need all your reviews on that one page, and remember that Amazon has always been very helpful in the past. The truth is you’ll make mistakes. Yes, plural—more than one mistake. There are safeguards, though. Here are a few I learned.
Get other eyes on every stage after your rough draft
Don’t trust your judgment. There is something I like to refer to as “page blindness” where staring at your own work results in nothing registering. So let other people see your work at every stage. Publishing contracts may demand this, but self-publishers should do the same.
Missing blatant errors with facts or continuity can prove embarrassing. Other eyes will help protect you from such errors and more, but they will not guarantee everything will be caught. Remember that if you missed it, someone else missing it is a possibility, but extra eyes decrease the likelihood.
Speak up for your work
If you are getting outside work, don’t shrug off things that cause you to pause. Your intuition is important. Before growing harsh with those assisting you, it may be prudent to ask for a second opinion from someone you trust; but it is critical to follow your instincts. Your project is personal. You will have to live with the end result. This isn’t a license to go authorzilla on everyone. However, you should acknowledge that no one else has the same emotional investment in your work as you. Longing for it to be exceptional is appropriate.
Forgive yourself for mistakes
Because you are so personally invested in your project, mistakes can feel deeply personal and embarrassing. Remember to appreciate your successes. As it turns out, I not only wrote and published my worst book ever, but also my best! My book has been read from cover to cover multiple times—even the editions missing page numbers. Readers have responded favorably. I battled with writing a longer book. However, the short book I wrote has led to more than one admission of continued pondering and re-examination of points made. How much can I hate my worst book ever when it has positively changed perspectives and has re-reads?
Writing a book is about more than finishing. There should be a commitment to excellence, and beyond that, a commitment to personal understanding. Understand that your book will not be perfect. Still, that finished book may change someone’s life, and that means it was perfect in that moment. Shake free from those feelings of failure. Your worst thoughts may be blinding you from seeing that, even if only for one reader you achieved greatness!