I always turn into a psychotic freak when I hand over my stuff to read; it never matters if it’s a work in progress or a finished piece (published or not) … I hand it over and my mind immediately starts listing all the reasons why that was a REALLY BAD IDEA. It gets worse if they read it and then get back to me — cold sweats and heart thumping terror kind of worse.
When I try and explain this to people, they automatically assume it has everything to do with whether or not they’ll like what I’ve written, that I’m terrified of criticism and that I can’t handle an honest opinion. But that’s not it at all – sure, it’d be nice if they liked it but I am seriously more concerned about their reading it changing their opinion of me. Not my writing but me as a person because this is the closest that anyone will ever get to my soul without cutting me open and trying to find it for themselves.
If someone reads it and has nothing to say except how much they loved it, how perfect it was and how wonderful of a writer I am, well, it’s nice to hear that and all but really it feels more like I’m being told what they think I want to hear and this is at the top of my ‘List Of Things I Hate’.
If they’ve got constructive criticism and they’re up for a bit of back and forth bantering, whether they liked it or not, I will be over the moon – recently a friend read my work in progress novel manuscript and afterwards we spent nearly an entire workday on G-Talk discussing various things; and it helped me see the story I’m creating from a whole different side. I’ve got tons of new ideas, I’m more confident in where I’m going and I’m feeling fantastic about what I’ve got so far — I took the good and the bad and I worked with them, I laughed at myself and opened myself up to knowing that I am not 100% perfect … and it felt great.
But how do you explain the difference to someone who has never had an experience with putting such a portion of yourself out there as an artist (of any kind)? How do I assure them that I won’t crumble into a little pile of dust and broken heart if they don’t like it. I am smart enough to know that nothing pleases everyone … I am writing this because I have a story I want to tell, not because I want to win anyone over or because I think it’s going to bring me fame and fortune. Really, I have better chances with the lotto tickets on that aspect.
I can’t not write. I tried that, the voices inside my head nearly drove me insane. What’s the point in writing anything if you’re not constantly trying to learn, grow and improve your craft? How can I do any of that without letting my words out there to be read?
In short, I cannot and I must continue on my path, venturing occasionally into the realm of freak out and assuring those around me I’m stronger than they seem to think.
It is, at the very least, reassuring to know that I’m not alone — I’m not the only writer out there who ever questioned her talent, abhorred the words she’d written or was positive that it would all be snatched away when the mistake was figured out.
I may be crazy in this aspect, but at least I’m not alone.