I have a confession to make.
I don’t know whether you’ve noticed or not, but … I’m a little weird.
See, I’m sort of a set of dichotomies, opposites pulling on each other.
I’m sensitive and caring, but calloused and aloof. I’m intelligent and stupid. I’m capable and inept. I’m brave and cowardly. I’m a man of faith who doesn’t practice what most would think of as the religion I profess.
And I’m a writer who loves to be read and is afraid to be read.
Know what I mean? No, how could you.
See, the problem is this:
I love when people read my work. There’s something gratifying and very boosting about having your work read and appreciated. I thrive on the feedback, folks coming back to me to tell me how much they loved this description or that description, how the dialog is so realistic, how the words painted pictures in their heads. Love it. Don’t we all? Isn’t that at least part of why we write? Because we want that interplay, that reaction, with the reader? We’re all junkies to the responses in some ways, aren’t we? Otherwise, why bother with submitting for publication? We’d be entertaining ourselves, and Lord knows, that’s no fun. I can find better ways to do that than typing, for certain.
At the same time, I’m scared to have someone read my work. The more I think someone can cast a critical, jaded and jaundiced eye at my writing, the less eager, confident and distant I am. If I think someone’s got the skill, and the intent, to shred my stuff — I’m chicken. I don’t want it to happen. I think if it does, the result won’t be good. Then I read stuff online and hear from other writers that critiquers (this is NOT a word, by the way; it should be “critics”) aren’t there to help you figure out what you did right and pat you on the back for the good parts of your work. They’re there to identify, highlight and magnify what you screwed up, so that the ridicule and humiliation serve as a learning tool and you, theoretically at least, become a better writer on the far side of the critique, having learned they way a soldier in a firefight learns.
That’s my spin on it, of course, and if you can show me the critic who admits to being unduly cruel or harsh in their critique I’ll be floored. But that’s probably how it feels to the one receiving the critique. And because I’m not one to sit around and let someone hurl insults … I’ve not done it yet. I haven’t even had a genuine beta reader except for my loving wife, who hasn’t had a negative comment to make about my writing since I abandoned the POS that was my first attempt at a novel in ten years. (And man, was it a stink-burger.) She tries hard, but she’s also human, and only ONE human at that.