“I am absolutely rubbish”

I am generally a confident woman. I don’t think  am a bad mother, I am quite a good wife and I am good at my job. But when it comes to writing, I turn into this quivering mess of self doubt. Despite assurances from my friends and family that my writing is quite good, it doesn’t take much for me to feel that I am absolutely rubbish at writing.

Case in point: I had sent my latest book to my mum and sisters for feedback. (Not an erotic novel, I couldn’t ask my mum to read that, she would get a heart attack and disown me.) My mother’s feedback was as follows:

I loved the book, had to read it almost in one sitting as I wanted to know how it ended. I can’t think of any way to improve it, it’s just perfect.

So far so good, right? That is really nice, mum-style feedback. Although in my mum’s defense, she has provided feedback that was more critical on one of my other books. But this was very nice to get. Then she continued:

 I am assuming you will still correct the grammatical and spelling mistakes, right? I assume you wrote the book in a rush.

*insert record scratch*

Immediately my mind latches on to this. “I knew it was rubbish, I can’t write.” To be fair, I did write the book in a rush. I wrote all 100+k words in one month, during NaNoWriMo. When I edited, I did look at grammar and spelling, but it wasn’t my top priority as I wanted to make sure the plot and characters held together before I went down to the grammar and spelling level. So – fairly reasonable comment to make. But it made me very upset. To the point that I (briefly) considered just shelving the thing and never allow it to see the light of day again.

It took me three days for my feelings about this to calm down. Three days where I absolutely believed my writing was rubbish and I might as well pack it in. I know I am not the only one who reacts like this. I have heard of imposter syndrome and I have read well-known published authors absolutely hating editor’s comments. I am glad to say that I didn’t delete my book, and that I have taken my mum up on the offer to proofread the book. She used to be a professor of English, so I know it is in good hands with her.

Does it get easier though? Will there be a time where I can read criticism of my books and calmly take it on board without feeling my heart is ripped out of my chest? I have been reluctant to send my books to any publishers or agents for fear of rejection. In hindsight this was wise, as my previous books were actual rubbish, but this latest book is not half bad and it will need to go out into the world as I am determined to become a published writer. If I already react so badly to a very mild, reasonable comment from my mother, how am I going to react to actual structural criticism from a stranger?

I guess I better grow thicker skin.

2 thoughts on ““I am absolutely rubbish””

  1. Some people don’t have much tact when they give more constructive feedback. I think that thick skin is a must as a writer, especially when we’re sending off our books to people to read for feedback in order to make the book better. The best thing you can do is to just say completely open to whatever people say. If it’s a negative aspect, try to look at it objectively and ask yourself, “If i made that change, would the book truly be better?” In the case of your mother, I think she really was trying to help, but it was probably the way she said it that was jarring. Take a look at the manuscript objectively and ask yourself, “Do I need to spend a little more time on my editing?” And if so, then do it. But thick skin is definitely a must. Because even if someday your book gets acquired by a publisher, or you self-publish, there are always those reviewers who are really mean just because they’re mean people. Believe in your work and have fun with it, at all costs. Easier said than done, I know, but I speak from experience! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. True, good advice about determining whether the criticism will make the book better. You don’t have to take everything on board but just because it isn’t worded well doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. I guess I will just have to grow thicker skin.

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