You Are Not a Bad Person Because You Used the Wrong Postage

Yesterday I had breakfast with a writer friend. She’s already building a following with her self-published books. Now, she’s breaking into traditional publishing. She mentioned a particular anxiety she’s been dealing with, and it gave me an epiphany.

Specifically, it gave me an analogy, which is the greatest of all joys.

She knows she has a good story, and she knows her readers will love it once it’s in their hands. Still, she’s terrified of what the gatekeepers will say if they find any grammatical errors in her manuscript. She’s worried that emotional sting could even slow down her writing.

Sound familiar?

If so, listen—I’m going to tell you the same thing I told her:

Imagine you’re shipping a gift to a dear friend on the other side of the country. You package it up, then you go to the post office. You try your best to calculate the postage, and when you’re confident you’ve got the stamps and labels right, you deposit the package.

A week later, the package appears on your doorstep with a note that says you have the wrong postage.

Now here’s my question: Are you a bad person because you got the postage wrong?

Or how about this: are you a stupid failure who never should’ve tried to ship a package in the first place?

Of course not!

In this scenario, you’d go back to the post office and try again. Maybe this time you’d ask the person at the counter for help. (Speaking of—why didn’t you do that the first time?)

So then why should it be any different to show your manuscript to someone and hear that you got the grammar wrong?

Your story is your gift to share. It’s precious to your readers because they can feel how much you care. Everything between your readers and your story—all the gatekeepers, rules, and grammar—is just a delivery system. It’s the postal system, but for stories instead of packages.

You can work with the system as-is, or you can find a way around it. Either way, your responsibility is to share your story. As long as your story lands in the hands of readers, and they can tell you care, you win. You’re a real writer.

Nobody can manage the entire delivery system all on their own. That’s why real writers call in help. They call it in early and often, without any shame.

Whatever happened yesterday, here’s your game plan for today:

  1. Tell your story.

  2. Ask for help.

  3. Listen.

Now get to it.