5 Questions for Judging Your Literary Work

Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and most recently The Lion’s Gate, sends out a newsletter for writers called First Access.

In a recent edition, Pressfield talked about managing expectations when your book is published. It’s a minefield, as you probably know.

“The problem with books is it’s so hard to penetrate the clutter,” Pressfield wrote. “I don’t care how much you network, or how supposedly powerful your publisher is, your book is sallying forth into a marketplace that is overloaded, overstuffed, overstimulated. Your work is swimming for its life in a sea of other thrashing, gnashing competitors.”

Authors get distracted, or obsessed, with rankings, reviews and such. (I have.) Pressfield said don’t listen to the market and don’t monitor the charts. Pay no attention to the critics, he added.

Good advice? Sure, I think so. Hard to do? Oh yeah.

I liked the five questions Pressfield uses to judge his literary work. Maybe they’re a help to you and me.

1. Was this a worthy effort?

2. Did it call upon you to give more than you believed you had in you?

3. Did you conduct yourself honorably in the enterprise?

4. Did you give it all you had?

5. Did you succeed according to your own standards, the measures that only you know and only you can define?

“Those are the only criteria I can control,” wrote Pressfield, who tries to live by an axiom from the Bhavagad Gita:

You have the right to your labor,
but not to the fruits of your labor.

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