Attitudes toward success

Car. I’ve always approached major projects and goals with the attitude that if I worked hard enough at something, I would eventually achieve it. This mindset has served me well so far, but lately I feel like I’ve been using it as a crutch. While I see hard work as the gas that keeps my car rolling down the road to success, I wonder whether I’m stopping for gas too often. For me, success has been measured by a series of stepping stones, incremental progressions that force me to prove myself worthy of my final achievement. But I’ve always been afraid to take a leap, to skip a stone and lunge for the next one down the path. To drive past a gas station confident that my tank is full enough to carry me to the next station.

Why do I bring this up? The more serious I get about my writing career, the less sure I am about what “step” I’ve reached or where the next step even lies. I’ve told myself time and again that I have to write just one more “bad” book before my work is really ready for publication, and that even though I consider a project polished and ready to pitch to agents, I should expect to get only rejections. Because that’s the process. I have to go through all these steps to reach my ultimate goal of publication.

But does it really need to be like that? I’m going to keep writing and editing and pitching until I sign with an agent (and then writing and editing even more until I die), but what if this “bad” book that I’m in love with is actually the one that will get me a contract? Has my obsession with proving grounds stolen my confidence in my own work?

Right now I’m in the midst of querying one novel (my current “bad” book) and hammering out a draft of another one. I’ve sent nine queries and participated in two contests, and so far have seen only partial requests. I keep telling myself it’s okay; my writing isn’t strong enough yet, my pitch isn’t stellar, etc., etc. But I worry that I’ll say the same thing for the next book, and the one after that. When will I have enough confidence in my work to really believe it will make it to the bookshelves?

Those of you who have seen your work published, was there a moment when you were completely sure that what you had was ready? Or are you still second-guessing yourself? Any tips for someone who’s wondering when to give up and when to keep querying?

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