Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sometimes Your Best Isn't Enough

Okay, today is tell the truth Tuesday.

Here's a tough one for you: Sometimes your best isn't good enough.

It really isn't. Sometimes you try really hard to do/change/fix something, and it's not enough. This was brought to my attention as I was reading a book over the weekend. In the dedication, the author said "To XXX who kept saying, "This is good, but not good enough."

And so today, I'd like to submit that it's okay to not be good enough.

Right now.

Once you've accepted this Truth, find and surround yourself with the people who will demand more from you. More than you think you have. More than your best. Because then you'll rise to a new level of "best."

Thoughts? Who have you found that forces you to dig deeper, try harder, do better? I have many--including a lot of you who demand I think of semi-interesting things to post here every day--but I won't name them because I'm pretty sure they know who they are.

79 comments:

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

"surround yourself with the people who will demand more from you." Excellent advice and one of the best ways we can grow.

I love my smart friends.

~ Wendy

lynnrush said...

Right on! So true. Being able to admit that is the first step, huh? **smile** Oh wait, that's a different program. . .

Georgiana said...

Ouch! Great advice that kind of hurts, but in a good way :D I'm thankful for the crit partners God has sent my way.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Let's see . . . my crit partners and the agents who rejected my previous ms. Each personalized rejection made me want to do better. And the recent agent who requested a full and rejected it. She told me not to give up on it. That was the push I needed to take things to the next level, to become a better writter. :)

Great post as always!

A. Grey said...

I. Love. This. Post.

I just got told by a great agent that my query was 'much, much too general to stand out among the other dystopian YAs she received'. That sucked. Especially since I thought I'd worked pretty damn hard to make it stand out. Plus, other agents have requested fulls based off of it.

But... I went and worked on my query again anyway, and got some help from one of my beta readers and now we both think it's waaay better. Is it perfect? Nope. And if I get more feedback in regards to it, you bet I'll be working on it even more.

I like things not being good enough. If they were good enough, where would you go in life? Nowhere. :)

Susan Fields said...

My mother's not a writer, but she's read more books than I could ever hope to read. She gives me my most honest feedback, including, "it's good, but not good enough." Thanks, Mom!

Janet Johnson said...

Amazing that what we think is "best" can usually be improved. Thank heavens for critique groups and everyone else we can convince to read our poor WIPs.

Bish Denham said...

I don't want to hear it, but I know I need to.

jessjordan said...

The writer's workshop I was in before I moved, the people I've "met" since starting this blog, the writing samples I've read from fellow aspiring authors ... Inspiration to be better is everywhere.

Karen Lange said...

It's good to have friends that stretch and push us. Thanks for sharing this!

Kelly said...

Thank goodness for critique groups for their positive feedback, but more importantly their criticisms and suggestions!

Laura Pauling said...

Other people definitely motivate us and point us in the right direction; but ultimately, the one who forces me to look at my work and say, "you can do better" - is me. If you find a crit partner that you trust enough to be honest, then you're lucky.

Kristi said...

One of my critique members kicks the crap out of everything I send her -- in a good way. She pushes me hard to make every single sentence sparkle. I entered 2 contests and got 2 partial requests from agents this week so my crit group offered to spend extra time last night "kicking the crap" out of my chapters before I hit "send." I LOVE my group!

Alli said...

And the truth hurts! In a good way, though. When we have a group of people who only want to see us succeed and are willing to make us work really hard for it... well... I am very grateful for my CP's. They won't allow me to be average.

Paul Greci said...

I love this: "surround yourself with the people who will demand more from you."

Critique partners push us in our writing and we take a little of that push and internalize it. And overtime we become better at pushing ourselves, and then our critique partners can push us even further. And if it is all done in a supportive way, it is a beautiful thing. Thanks, Elana!

lbdiamond said...

For sure, knowing that your best isn't good enough is a fantastic jumping off point for improvement. Haha, I had one of those moments last month and it helped me improve my MS to get it ready for a full request!

Now, I just need to bring my query to the next level--always striving!--to help make it stand out too.

A. Grey--I wonder if we got info from the same agent, LOL! :)

As usual, thanks Elana for your post and wisdom!!!!!

Amanda J. said...

True story. Sometimes you work your butt off and it still isn't enough, but the point is to keep trying, and trying, and trying...

Great post, Elana! :)

VR Barkowski said...

Yes! Love this post!

I have an excellent cp who is not only honest, but writes a different sub-genre, so she's coming at my work from a unique angle. This is so helpful.

Yeah, it stings, but I revel in honest feedback. When someone critiques my work and sees no room for improvement, I feel I've failed - that it was so bad it wasn't even worth offering a suggestion to make it better. It can ALWAYS be improved upon. What's the point if we're not always striving to make our work the best we can make it? That's where the joy is!

Tamika: said...

In my writing life I haven't found that person yet who demands more of me. But I need a few!

There is a spiritual friend that does a wonderful job at holding me accountable. I thank God for her everyday!

Kay said...

eeck! big interview today...high expectations from me... and you're going to throw this one out there- hehe. I like how you turn it though, as a challenge, surrounding yourself with people who will be honest and helpful in your (all of our) journeys to become great! Happy Tuesday!

Judith Mercado said...

The process of rejection by agents and publishers has been real motivator to go back and dig some more and make things better and start sending things out again. Sometimes, of course, it has been a motivator for digging myself into a deeper hole so I could flee the sting of rejection. Ultimately, though, I peep out and start again. Great post.

Southpaw said...

Thankfully I have one of those. And it really does help once you get past the "What it's not,” sniffle, sniffle, “good enough.”

CamrynMorrell said...

I think what you said is very true. We are often our harshest critics. Sometimes, when I'm writing, I end up thinking that what I'm coming up with isn't good enough, but I continue anyway. Thank you for this very inspiring post. :)

Jonathon Arntson said...

You're absolutely correct. Our best is not always good enough, but our best is never really our best. There's always room for improvement. Forget about making things perfect, dare to make things that suck! Dare to take those POS writings and make something better and better and even better! Mrs. Johnson, can you help me make plot my rising writing skill level? Is that what you call exponential? Oh that word burned my eyes. Going, running away!

Portia said...

Great post. Very true. As much as writing is a solitary activity, we must share it and seek feedback. And then we must edit, edit, edit until we've created something that comes close to our vision and finally connects with our readers.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Add yourself to my list of those who make me want to do better. One of the dangers, for many of us, is falling into that dark hole of despair when we realize something isn't good enough, when we think we are losers. The way to be a winner is to do what you said: Dig deeper, try harder.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I must admit that my blogger buddies not only provide great entertainment they also inspire me to do better! How can I not with all this advice and contests going on.

Shout out to you Elana for being such a great blogger buddy!!!!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I'm thankful for people like that. But I don't like them very much during the process. :0)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Ouch. That was painful, but probably necessary.

I'm thankful for my critique buddies. They call it like it is.

Valerie Geary said...

Perfect timing on this one today Elana! I've been working on a new novel and I got about 50,000 words into it when suddenly I realized it wasn't good enough. I wasn't pushing my characters or the plot hard enough. I spent all weekend trying to fix it... thankfully I think I'm now on to something brilliant!

Southern Princess said...

yeah, this is that truth that really sucks.

You are right though. Its like an arts & crafts class:
Sure your creation is great because you made it, you completed it, you stepped up to the challenge and glued the macaroni to the box - feeling quite proud of this awesome job you did.

But hey look at that kid, he/she glued the macaroni, added glitter, threw on some beads, made a hole for a photo AND filled it with candy! Yeah - this is when you slide over to their desk and say "Can you help me with mine?" Sometimes we need to work even harder or maybe just sit back and accept the fact that we need to make some adjustments and make it even better than our best. Let that kid's work push you to add some more glitter or take off some mac & add some beads..

Yeah I know - weird analogy this morning. Sorry, its Tuesday. ;o) lol

My husband. He reads or listens to my work and is quick to say "I like it, but, you may want to think about... or even sometimes he says...this is really not your best at all."

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Lisa Nowak said...

I'm the one who says, "good, but not good enough" about my stuff. My critique buddies are excellent at pointing out things I haven't noticed, but I wouldn't say they're harsh on me and hold me accountable.

WindyA said...

Your best is a moving target, I think. And the people you surround yourself with should be people who are helping you by moving it, so you continue to strive to hit that moving target. And honestly, I don't think you should ever hit it. It takes away some of the drive and the pressure to be better. Just a personal thought.

Mary Campbell said...

Yes, I want people who will say this to me. I really want my crit partners to tell me I can do better, sometimes I'm afraid of them telling me that too. What if I can't do better?

Nicole Ducleroir said...

I couldn't agree more! I don't want people to read my work and tell me why it's great....hang on, I actually do want that! BUT, I also want to know where my writing is so-so, where it's weak, where peoples' minds wandered as they read. I'll become a better writer only by hearing why my work is not good enough...yet

Awesome post, Elana!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Roxane, JeMA, Carl, and my four sons. Thanks. These people would never say, "you're not good enough." They'd say, Of course you can. Silly.

Rena said...

Great post and very true. I'm always surprised where and how inspiration comes from. It's often where I least expect it.

Olivia Carter said...

I'm in dire need of a critic group to do this for me.

Until then I luckily have a husband who is the perfect mix of being supportive while still pushing, pushing, pushing. Ever pushing.

Elle Strauss said...

I have a couple writer friends who aren't afraid to tell me what they really think. They are the most valuable in the end.

Angie said...

I keep telling my kids this too. We're lucky to have people around us who expect the best!

Jen said...

I am seeing someone very close to me being really stretched because over the last 8 weeks of churning out a really high quality work, it hasn't been "good enough" by the standards of the powers that be. It's such a personally debilitating thing, but I also see a lot of growth.

Suffering creates growth, but you are right we need a support system so we don't plunge into despair in the meantime.

coffeelvnmom said...

I think I needed to hear that. Not that I wanted to hear it.

lotusgirl said...

Thanks for that. It is important to surround ourselves with people who help us be our best selves.

Icy Roses said...

Motivation is there, as long as you look for it. Sometimes, I'm too lazy to look for it, though!

Great advice, even though it's hard to hear.

Kristi said...

I don't think my second post went through but to add to my first one: I wanted to thank Elana for her awesome (and tough) query critique. Seriously, buy her book!

Sandy Shin said...

I agree. Often time, doing your best isn't enough, but it only means you still have room to improve. Wouldn't it be terrible knowing any particular work is your best and anything you write afterward will never be better?

I don't have a group of people who demand more of my writing yet, but when I do find them, I'll grab on tight and won't let them go. :)

lotusgirl said...

yep. being that person is vital too. It's a give a take.

L.T. Elliot said...

My friend Carolyn always helps me to dig deeper and be better. I'm so lucky to have her as my crit. partner.

Terresa said...

I think too often as writers we may leap ahead before our writing is complete. Instead of a slow bake, it might be more like a microwaved meal or fast food. But some of my best writing has come when it's simmered weeks or months, and then it evolves from being not good enough to being my best.

Jackee said...

This is a hard concept in practice for me because I'm such a perfectionist. But you're right--sometimes it's okay that my performance isn't good enough. It's the only way I learn and grow.

Nisa said...

This is where those great crit partners come in, but having inspirational blog posts like this one does a lot too! Thanks, Elana, for all that you do!

Angela said...

My core crit group has unfortunately fallen apart, so I'm still looking for a new one that challenges me to be the very best. :-)

But man, I agree 100%. Crit partners are the best--especially the ones that want it as bad as you do yourself.

Danyelle said...

*whimpers* Growing hurts, but it's worth it. The perfectionist inside hates that my best is often not good enough, but it also highlights that people really do need each other. Writing doesn't have to be completely solitary, and I'm glad for that. :)

Bethany Mattingly said...

Sooo true, I didn't know what I was missing when I didn't have critique people to point out things that I've been happily blind to. Great post!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Have I told you lately how much I LOVE you?! You have no idea how badly I needed to hear this today. In fact, tears roll down my cheeks as I type this comment. I didn't even know they were coming. I read your post and then... Tears.

Thanks for the right words at the right time. You really do rock!

Rebecca Knight said...

I'm always encouraged by the idea that there is a new "Best" out there just waiting for me to achieve it :).

But then again, I'm a little crazy sometimes.

Great post, Elana!

Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...

What an inspirational post, Elana! As far as my writing goes, my editor has forced me to be better. I demand a lot out of myself, but she pulls more out of me. Every time I think we're done with edits she says, "Wait a minute, there's a little more to do!" I call her my kindly slave driver! She is one of those people who inspires you because she loves her job so much and she is one of those people who makes you want to get every little thing right. I've learned that not only do my future readers deserve it, but I deserve it too! I've worked to hard to get where I am to demand anything less!

Awesome, awesome post!

xoxo -- Hilary

Cheree said...

That is so try. I'm lucky enough to have found an online critique group that always pushes me to go a little harder.

J.A. Palermo said...

I am so thankful for my crit group. They can push hard!

Kristi said...

I love nothing more than when a critique of my own work comes back bleeding, full of possible ideas and changes. We can all strive to be better than we are! And honest friends are definitely the way to go! Because the truth is sometimes our best really isn't good enough....and true friends will tell us that.

Kristi said...

I love nothing more than when a critique of my own work comes back bleeding, full of possible ideas and changes. We can all strive to be better than we are! And honest friends are definitely the way to go! Because the truth is sometimes our best really isn't good enough....and true friends will tell us that.

Nichole Giles said...

And that, Elana, is why I like hanging out with awesomesauce people like you.

Nichole

Steena Holmes said...

I want - no - I need to be told it's not good enough. Yep, it'll suck, but sometimes truth hurts.

Like today - I 'thought' my query was polished to the bits, that it was 'good enough' for an agent. I was wrong. Good enough doesn't cut it anymore.

elizabeth said...

Excellent advice. I love your liveliness and to the point posts! :)

Kimberly Franklin said...

You're so right! There are many friends of mine who challenge me to think deeper, try harder every day. And sometimes it hurts, but without them pushing me I would never find what I'm truly capable of.

Great Post!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I've made peace with my lack of housekeeping skills.

However, if someone suggests I need to go on that show Hoarders... well, then I might consider a self-led intervention.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

My crit buddies are great for pushing me a step further right when I think I've gotten the darn thing right. :)

ali said...

I *love*love*love*love*LOVE* this. You are so right. Totally. So right in fact that you inspired my post today of course! And I hadn't even seen THIS post of yours before I wrote it, lol. Just because it's YOU in my life, and Jenn, Stacy and Sara, who demand MORE, my BEST. ♥

Jemi Fraser said...

I find my crit buddies push me the most to get better - yet they do it so I'm not crushed - more excited to start again! Love 'em :)

kathrynjankowski said...

What motivates me?

When a trusted reader hands back pages and says, "You're getting there." **pulls hair**

When a member of my writing group compliments me on a sentence and I realize she understood exactly what I was trying to say! One down, a gazillion to go. (Or is that hella-zillion?)

The sheer joy of creating a story. Nothing compares.
;-)

Kimberly said...

My best friend (who coincidentally lives in your neck of the woods). Whenever I email her a chapter hoping to wow her she comes back and points out every area that is unclear or needs work. Thing is, she is ALWAYS right (girl has a gift).

Praise doesn't help me improve - nice (umm...and rare) as it is.

Daisy Whitney said...

Oh man, so true. That was always my worry -- what if I was good, but not good enough? As for me, I just kept writing and didn't stop until I wrote a book that was more than good enough and more than good too!

Sharon Mayhew said...

I've surrounded myself with talented writers...(I'm pretty sure I am the weakest link in our group.)

Patti said...

I think in the beginning I thought I could do it alone, but really everyone needs someone to push them and I'm lucky to have found that, so I can make my not quite good enough, good enough.

G said...

My inner self.

Seriously, the only thing I've found that pushes me to do better, are the mindless anonymous toddlers that dwell in the chat rooms.

I push myself to do better in order to shut them up.

That is the bottom line. Proving someone wrong is a great motivator for writing.

Jessica said...

Wow, good stuff Elana! I hope my critters will be this way for me. I think my husband challenges me to be better/stronger in life stuff too.

Donna Hole said...

My writer's group; and my blog critters. They've been wonderful.

..........dhole

Christina Farley said...

This is where my writing group rocks. I think I have it perfect and they find something else to make it even more perfect!

AchingHope said...

I am a wimp and hate it when people make we want to be better than I am, sometimes they follow me around anyway and I yell at them to leave me alone, but once they're gone I realize I really should try to be better than I am. *sigh*

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