It's so easy to focus on your own insecurities, and spend so long agonising over the quality of your writing that you never finish that article, or submit that novel...there are days when I'm paralysed by my inner critic, though I'm trying hard to thicken my skin against it.
Writing Magazine has a regular feature by James McCreet, where the first 300 words of a novel are treated to 'forensic criticism'. I always enjoy this - Mr McCreet identifies so much of what isn't working, where I only know that something non-specific and vague is amiss. I've learnt a lot from it, and admire his attention to detail.
However, this month he was dismembering the first few words of'What the Moon Remembered' by Andrea Wotherspoon. As usual, I read through the 300 words before I allowed myself to read the comments, and I enjoyed it. I thought it was a cut above the usual excerpts, and wondered to myself if, this month, there might be quite a lot more praise than usual. Then I read James McCreet's comments. I can't say any of them were unfair. But I was astounded that I hadn't anticipated any of them- not one. I had thought it was a perfectly reasonable few paragraphs, until I was forced to look again. By the time I had finished the article, not only was my inner critic yelping triumphantly about how useless I am, but my confidence in my own judgement was in question. After all, I hadn't spotted most of the weakness or errors, and would be likely to make the same mistakes myself. How can I avoid errors in my work if I can't identify them easily in someone else's? Time to abandon hope...?