Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Skittles Method

   High on a shelf in my kitchen pantry used to sit a small glass jar full of Skittles. At the time, one of my young children was having a difficult adjustment to a new school year. She fretted over her homework and would become upset if everything wasn’t just right. A friend suggested I try the “Skittles method”—each time she made a mistake on her homework she would get a Skittle if she didn’t fix it. This meant each time her number four slanted too much to one side she had to choose between fixing it or getting candy. Let the Skittles feast begin! Wrong.

   It took several months for my daughter to slowly eat her way through that jar of Skittles. When faced with the possibility of having others see a mistake she made, the candy became unattractive. She wanted perfection, so much so that she would pass up candy!

   As an author, I found the lesson of the Skittle jar to be invaluable. We write, rewrite, edit, edit some more, proof, stress about it, rewrite it again, etc. to the point where we don’t even like our book anymore. Sometimes our writing needs a lot of work. BUT, and I think this happens more often than we’d like to believe, we’re stalling. We don’t want anyone to see our mistakes. Yet mistakes there will be.

   When querying for my recently published young adult novel, CYCLES, it almost made me sick to push the send button on my email. The nausea didn’t go away after the first time either. It took more than fifty queries until my stomach didn’t do flip flops the moment I thought of writing to another agent.
   In the end, it was worth it. I grew a thicker skin (though I could still use a few layers) and I realized that I am simply an imperfect being. I finally decided I would rather have a few mistakes and move forward then feel paralyzed with perfection.

   So go ahead. Do the best you can on your manuscript. Then a little bit more  AND THEN, bite your pencil hard and move down the path you’ve chosen to take, whether that be sending it to a publisher, querying an agent, or self-publishing it yourself.

   Face the fear. :)

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I'm a mom and author, among other things. I enjoy writing middle grade and young adult books.