Four Hardest Words I Have to Say

That’s not good enough–the four hardest words I have to say. Almost daily.

That’s not good enough is so often why a submission or query gets rejected. That’s not good enough is why I’ll push my clients for yet another round of revisions, even when we’re both exhausted.

Of course, “that’s not good enough” isn’t reserved just for authors. It’s also a phrase I say to myself and my team when we are setting our goals. And in contract negotiations. Always in contract negotiations. That’s not good enough is said when we’re editing our YouTube videos, shooting for Instagram, and designing our website.

That’s not good enough means I know we can do better. I believe in the author and their ability to write bigger and better. I know the book can be more. It means our video can be stronger (and the volume louder) and the website more user-friendly. It means we should push ourselves further because I believe we can.

When I’m willing to tell someone that’s not good enough it means I believe in their abilities to do better or do more. It’s a stance that says I have faith in them. I see their potential and I want to bring it out.

It’s not always easy to tell someone that’s not good enough and it’s even harder to hear it. I know the eighth round of revisions is exhausting, I know facing your fears to set higher goals is scary. Telling you that’s not good enough is scary. It could mean the difference between a great book, and a lost client.

When facing rejection and revisions step back and ask yourself, is it really good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough.

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11 comments

  1. Thanks for this, Jessica. It’s so easy for writers to forget that everyone in this business has to work hard to be good enough and that the standards aren’t there to punish but to push us to do our best work.

  2. Thanks , Jessica. Those four words beat me up on every revision I do. I surprise myself, although it takes more time and some frustration, I’m amazed that my story surprises me with the changes. There is someone, someday, that will fall in love with my book! I will keep aiming for good enough Thank you!

  3. Thanks Jessica. In times like these it’s good to hear that everyone can be better. Better at writing, illustrating, checking on neighbors, making face masks (the latest is to add nylon stockings in front for super protection – have lots of those to recycle, yay!) and with staying sane while receiving rejections and just staying home. Be safe.

  4. I have no filter today and that’s no excuse so I’m going to admit in advance to being a hypocrite and pick away at this from the safety of distance that my computer screen provides: Wouldn’t ‘This could be even better’ be more constructive than ‘this isn’t good enough’? You say this is what you mean, pretty much, that you have faith they CAN do better, but why not just say that instead of the blunt, crippling phrase? I’m sure I’m not the only sensitive writer who is easily flattened by discouraging words – even if the person means well – how will they know this if the words you’re using to convey this message…ah…could be better? I’m sure you’re charming in real life, as you often are here, and maybe people who know you, know how to take this… but in any workplace scenario when I’ve had people who know how to use words cleverly to encourage people they are leading, instead of hitting people over the head with a knee jerk response – the results produce excellence instead of just ‘good enough’. This artful tact is still a skill I’m trying to learn but I do acknowledge the heightened quality it produces. <<>> P. S. Olive is a babe

  5. I have lived those words for about 10 years now. I slipped after my degree when I first got sick, but I’m back at it now.

    Long before I learnt to have faith in myself and think about my own abilities. I was a mum, and I lived for my kids, all my ambitions hopes and dreams were pinned on them.
    I always told them all, I expect them to be the best the can be at what they what are I do. I wanted them all to go to university or training to that level. I except child number 3, him I always knew would be able to go in to phd

    Then I started reading romance and the above mentioned self learning began The children didn’t need me at home 24/7 and I knew it just wasn’t good enough to say I’m a stay at home mum.
    So I applied to do a 1 year access course to give me the qualifications I would need to go to university. To get to the interview and be told I already had the right level, if not the right amount (I did a short teaching assistant course) of qualifications. To go home and phone the university, I started my degree the following week at 36 years old with 4 kids all still in school. Oh and I was post-op. I had my hospital post surgery check up during my second week, I was late for a lecture because if it.
    Now I also have a masters and I will be starting my phd in September. Touch-wood, fingers-crossed and any other good luck charms you may know, that the world is safe from the virus by then. Or at the very least well in the way to being.

    1. Maybe you’re asking the wrong question.

      Maybe it should rather be “is this as good as I can make it?”

      Just because I’m critical enough to realise that this could be better doesn’t mean that I can push it any further on my own.

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