Although I'm not a gourmet cook, I enjoy trying new recipes. And I've learned that preparation is the key ingredient to successful culinary ventures. Taking time to line up the necessary ingredients, measure them out properly and have them ready to add at the appropriate time increases the odds of a good outcome. It also means the cook is far less frazzled and more likely to enjoy the meal. Just as a cook prepares for delectable creations, so must a writer prepare for greatness. Lining up the ingredients for a writer means doing the research, thinking the project though, getting feedback before and after the writing is done, and finally sending it out into the world.
I'm better at some of those steps than others.
I'm good at doing research. I like delving into the nuts and bolts of an idea, looking up pertinent quotations and information, seeking out sources. I'm great at the "shitty first drafts" that Anne Lamott talks about in Bird by Bird (my writing Bible).
But sometimes I don't think things through carefully enough, and because of that my writing is less authentic than it should be. It doesn't tunnel as deeply as it should into layers of ideas and expression.
And I'm terrible about getting feedback on my work. My natural reticence causes me to hide away, makes it difficult for me to ask any of my writer friends to read and comment on my projects.
One way to get the feedback we need, Jeff Goinstells us today, one essential way to prepare for greatness, is to ship even if it's not as good as you want it to be. Put something out there and see what happens.
Because there is a huge risk involved in that action. Risk of criticism. Risk of rejection. Risk of failure.
Honestly, I'm not prepared for any of that.
When I'm cooking, there's always a moment of fear before when I turn on the stove and start putting all those well prepared ingredients to the fire. Will it turn out the way I hoped? Will it look like the glossy magazine picture accompanying the recipe? Most importantly, will my family smile with satisfaction at the first tasty bite?
All the preparation in the world is meaningless until you finish the product.
The proof is in the pudding.
Prepare for it.