So I joined critiquecircle.com recently. Gave my first crit and had it checked by a newbie helper; he or she was very complimentary. Then I posted Chapter 1 of Whispers of the Past for critique.
I'll admit that I was quite nervous. Friends and family reading your work is one thing; strangers in an online community are a different story altogether. I was also very nervous when I posted my query letter on AW. But I was a good girl and did what needed to get done, and I got a lot of great feedback. It's not that I expect people to be mean or anything; as a matter of fact, I'm one of those idiots that always expects kindness and courtesy from others, and I'm shocked when I don't get it--when people are mean for the sake of being mean.
So, with great apprehension, I took a look at my first critique on Thursday. All told, I got 5 crits. Wow! The feedback has been wonderful--people pointed out things I never thought of. And there were certainly some ego boosts in there, which I didn't expect. One critique was so complimentary that I read it to my husband.
Now, I know that crits are not about ego boosts. They are about improving your work, honing your craft, polishing your words and sentences until they shine. And I need that.
But boy, the ego boost helps too.
Because every writer, in fact every artist of any kind, has moments (ok, sometimes hours and days and weeks) when they think, "I suck." That little voice in the back of your head just repeats this over and over, until you start to believe it. And maybe, just maybe, you (or I) do suck. But the thing is, you have to shout that voice down. You have to remind it that this can take years, that the whole point of sucking is to have nowhere to go but up. And you have to remind yourself that the only way to STOP sucking is to practice. But having other people say, in essence, "You don't suck,"...well, that sure speeds along the process.
So, I'm off to not suck, or to improve upon any suckiness that is present, or to suck and revel in it. You should go do the same.
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving