The other day it struck me how much people who are successful surround themselves with and rely on others. The successful person has the creative idea, and can be the mouthpiece, but a whole army of others do the dog-work. My therapist reiterated that for me today. We were talking about me finishing my book to the best of my ability, and handing it on for others to edit and shape if necessary. That led to, how hard it is to know who to listen to, whose advice to follow.
While I’ve been writing, forming my ideas and getting them into order so that my book has flow and makes sense, I haven’t wanted anybody’s input, because if you bring somebody in too early they can commandeer your work. Or else you run the risk of them not understanding where you’re planning to go with it and side-tracking you. So I wanted to have my imprint on this work and wanted to achieve that on my own. It is my work, after all.
Now I’m ready to send it off to publishers and get feedback. If a publisher likes it but wants it to be edited, I’m fine with that, so long as I’m clear about what their goal is and what they require of me. You can be sure that if, for example, Ms. Lauren Marino of Gotham Books, New York says they’ll publish but they want to edit it, I’m going to say it’s just fine by me! It’ll be a relief to be in the hands of professionals. It’ll be an absolute pleasure to be guided and to give up some of the control, where it’s appropriate.
What I don’t want to do is to is lose my own core authority about the book, and sometimes it can be easy to do that, because the world abounds in people who call themselves authorities who are really more opinionated than anything else. The difference between those kind of people and the ones who know what they’re talking about, isn’t always obvious. And always in the forefront of my mind is the fact that any kind of production regarding books, films, art, music in today’s world isn’t about the ultimately perfect project. It’s about a project that some people like and think is brilliant.
And some people hate it and wax very eloquently about why it should be different. Others don’t care either way. You have to be clear about what you want, and discriminating about who you listen to, and about your decision to change something because somebody thinks you should. Because here’s the thing: even if somebody suggests something that sounds really good, how do they know that the publisher will like it? More to the point, how do you know? You don’t.
Imagine this sad scenario. You write a book. People read it for you and say rather do it this way. You make the changes. You never find a publisher. When you’ve died and gone to wherever, you get to look back and see the publisher of your choice reading your manuscript and thinking it would have been better if… And what they really were looking for was how you originally wrote it. Gaaaah.
I’ve decided that my litmus test of whether I should change something or not is going to be these 9 delicious words: yes we’ll publish if you will make these changes.