A few days ago (October 29th to be exact), I was doing my usual morning routine of catching up on my blog reading (down to 62 blogs and one e-zine) when I came across a fascinating post by Globalwrite on her blog called Rule of Three about self doubt. It was mostly about managing self doubt and not letting it ruin your writing and/or running your life.
I left a thoughtful comment, part of which said "That if my self doubt says my writing isn't good enough, I think about my blog and the visitors that I receive. Surely someone thinks my writing is good because they come back time and again to read what I post. I also think about that one story that impressed a publisher enough to take a chance on. No matter what, I still write. Either on the computer or by hand, as long as I'm putting words to paper/screen, there isn't nothing that can stop me."
Later that day, I ran into one of my favorite authors at work, who happened to be there that day as a vendor, selling her book along with arts & crafts with her friend. I asked her if she got my check and my book (which I sent along as a courtesy) and if she got a chance to read it. She said yes, and yes, she did get a chance to read it. She also gave me her opinion on it, of which she said that it really didn't appeal to her, which was as diplomatic as one can get when you're trying not to say something completely negative about a book but wanting to stay neutral about something that isn't your particular cup of tea.
I was about to thank her for it, when her friend pulled me over and gave me her unvarnished opinion of it. One of the sure fire ways of knowing that you're about to get hammered over something you wrote, is when an opinion starts off with "I'm no prude but...."
Well my friends, I got hammered by this person (who I do actually like), who told me in no uncertain terms what she thought of the book. After she got done offering her opinion about it, I said that I was sorry that you didn't like it. I also said a few other polite things about her opinion, then thanked her for it, and went to work. I also spent the day basically not hanging out there, like I usually do when this vendor comes by for a visit, simply because I'm such a hothead about criticism that I do have a tendency to shoot my mouth off.
I do want to say that the criticism from this person, is much different than the criticism from the jerk in the chat room. The criticism that she gave was sincere and heartfelt (not to mention that it hurt like hell), while the criticism from the jerk in the chat room is simply petty, has nothing to do with the first book anymore, and had become downright personal for the past month or so.
Here, self doubt immediately came into play as I spent the rest of the morning thinking about what she said about the book. I also spent part of the afternoon thinking about what she said and to a lesser degree, about my chosen genre. Now I will say that what she said did bother me to the point that I had to modify my plans for the afternoon. I'd planned on spending the afternoon at the library working on my other W.i.P (of which you'd read this excerpt of about three weeks ago), but after I got everything all set up, I proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes staring at a partially blank piece of paper trying to decided what I was going to write.
Frustrated over my lack of output, which was a direct result of what I heard this morning about my book (which I did warn the author that I toned down the sex and violence from the first book, so it wasn't like she was going to read it cold), I wound up making a trek to the mountain, where I was finally able to get a grip on my self doubt, and wrote a couple of pages of text.
Lesson learned was this: while I may be plagued with self doubt about my writing from time to time, letting it bother me to the point of paralysis is ultimately in the end, self destructive.