One of my biggest insecurities as a writer is, oddly enough, the fact that I'm making huge strides in improving my writing. I can look back on my work from a year ago and it looks to me today like a child with crayons -- and a colorblind child with crayons, at that. Most of the time, this is very exciting to realize. It is good to recognize improvement. But sometimes it is simply paralyzing. What if what I'm doing now looks just as bad to everyone else as what I did last year looks to me now?
So I get excited for feedback. I want people to tell me what's wrong, what is awful, what doesn't sound right, where it's boring. I can't identify it myself. I also can't 100% identify the parts where my writing is good, where it is funny, where the narrative tension is actually working. So, like all writers, I love the feedback. Gimme, gimme. Tell me how to make it better. Please. help. SOS. SOS.
And that's where it all gets a bit sticky. I get fantastic useful feedback from my fellow graduate students. Sometimes the sheer quantity is overwhelming. I mean, woah do they get what I need. I guess other writers would; it stands to reason. And I love them all to death for it. It helps SO freaking much to get that detailed feedback in writer-speak.*
*Yes, we totally have our own jargon. Don't even try to claim we don't.But it can also totally spoil you.
Because let's be real. Most readers are not going to be other writers. Most readers are not going to be able to give that kind of feedback.
I'm very lucky. I have a group of intelligent, well-read non-writers composed of friends and family who are often quite willing to give me feedback. To you guys, thank you. (I know you're likely to read this, even if you aren't likely to say anything about it. Yeah, I just called you out. You. Thanks!)
Other people can't say much more than "It's good." or "I like it."
You other insecure writers, you know that you've been frustrated when someone came back with one of those lines. It's not helpful to be told that it's good. It's not usable input for a reader to say s/he liked it. But you know what? You only think that because you are convinced that it's not really very good; they must be mistaken or lying.
Well, you know what? When I'm not too busy trying to figure out what parts of my writing are going to look childish to me in one, five, ten, twenty-five years, I really enjoy hearing people tell me they liked something I wrote.
Yeah, I said it. I like compliments.
So thanks to all the people who read things for me. Thanks to all the people who put up with my insecurities and sometimes frequent self-doubt. Thanks to the people who point out cliches and make suggestions for improvements and comment on the structure. And a giant THANK YOU to all my readers who say they like it and it's good -- especially those people who said those things about the short stories and fanfiction I wrote in high school and before because that stuff is truly laughably awful but it was so encouraging that you liked it, or at least said that you liked it.
Now you insecure writers, go thank your fan clubs! You're gonna want them around through all the rejections that come with the territory of being a writer.