We writers (and this is probably true of all creative-types) are an insecure lot. We put a bit of ourselves into our work and then throw it out into the wilds to either be lovingly embraced or summarily rejected. In either case, the law of symmetry holds that the audience is either embracing or rejecting the writer himself.
I’ve been producing a few stories of late in hopes of finding a publisher. I have one making the rounds (I’m a real writer now…I have rejection letters!) and have two or three in the works to start sending out. I self-edit the earliest draft and then will give it to my wife to go over to bring closer to finalization. She has a degree in English, is a librarian, reads A LOT, and I respect her opinion in all things.
Now, I know the adage among writers that says “don’t be afraid to kill your babies“. I also know that any suggestions my wife has about the story will only make the story better, which is the most important reason why I have her read it. But knowing this and feeling this are two completely different things.
I see her reading the draft and I get butterflies recreating the Battle of Hastings in my stomach. I start hearing “that voice”, the one that says that I’m wasting my time; I mean, sure my friends and family like my stories but I’m not really a “writer”. What I think is a pretty good story is really a steaming pile of crap. Then, as I catch her out of the corner of my eye making marks (I try not to watch directly as my nerves can’t take it and she’ll smack me or give me that ‘go do something else’ look), these feelings go into overdrive and I find myself descending into a funk…and not one of the fun George Clinton variety.
Finally she hands me back the draft and explains some of her marks. And they are all invariably right on the money. She tells me what I need to know and helps me wrench the thing into the proper shape. Often I can build on what she says and make even better changes. But I’m tense with the worry and the fear and then I’ll make with the “semi-self-deprecating-joke-that’s-not-all-that-funny-and-actually-a-desperate-plea-for-validation.”
My wife looks at me and says, “Do you want me to read your stories or not?”
And yes I do. I need her to. If I succeed at this writing gig, it will be in no small part because of her feedback and despite the fact that the author is a jackass.
I’m a baby writer…I realize this. I’ve been told nearly my entire life that I have a talent for putting words to paper. But every time I put my baby on the altar, I secretly pray that it will be so perfect as to deflect the knife. But this is unrealistic–as unrealistic as thinking that everything I write is cleverly disguised poo.
So, on top of developing my writing skills, my publishing savvy, and my personal discipline, I will also need to work on thickening my skin. Otherwise I very well may drive myself, and my editor-wife, over the edge.