God, is there any hell worse than being in the same room while other people read your work?*
That short story I mentioned the other day? I finally got a draft I was willing to let other people see, so I called in my usual first readers: Krys and the Husband. Both give me useful criticism and never hesitate to point out the places I fall short. What you want from first readers, really. I’m lucky to have both of them.
But fuck, being the same room as one of them while they read something of mine for the first time is like sitting on a chair made of fire-ants. Big ones. With herpes.
It’s the worst dance of insecurity ever. You finally manage to get someone to take a look at something you’ve painstakingly assembled from raw wordage, but you’re unable to leave the room while they do so. So you sit there and pretend to be all nonchalant and shit. You find something to do. You read, or at least remember to move your eyes occasionally over the page without taking in a goddamned word. You look in the television’s general direction. Or, like me, you pretend to be writing something else.**
And the whole fucking time, your brain is saying shit like, Man, that piece was crap. You totally lost it in the middle there. And that ending? Where the fuck did that come from? You somehow managed to find something that’s both cliched and totally out to lunch. No one ever thought it could be done, but leave it you to find hitherto-undiscovered pockets of bad writing. You are Magellan with a thesaurus.
And, crap, he’s going to know soon. Why didn’t you take another day to look it over? Why didn’t you do another draft? For fuck’s sake, why didn’t you check it for spelling mistakes again? You’d be better off just going over there, ripping it from his hands, and throwing it into the fireplace. Okay, you’ll have to light a fire first, and it’s July and fucking humid as the inside of Satan’s gym shorts, but—
Then he looks up and say something like, “Hey, I liked this part. It was good.”
And you mumble, “Thanks.”
And you think, hey, maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe I just have no distance from my work this soon after writing it. Maybe I should—oh, crap, he hasn’t read the part about the vampire pickaxe. fuckfuckfuckFUCKFUCK—
And then you’re back in your chair of fire-ants.
*Yes, people, I know there are worse hells. That one with the hyper-intelligent yet curiously unsympathetic rats, for example. But I’m not in those right now.
**Okay, technically, I amwriting something else. But it’s only a cover. And because I ran out of newsfeeds and other blogs to pretend to look at. I even ran through Memebase, for fuck’s sake. Do you know how many poorly written captions I looked at to make myself feel better?