A wonderful and temporarily heart-wrenching thing happened to me the other day; my work was critiqued.
And not by my Mum, who is a sound, encouraging reader who helps me progress, but by a stranger.
As soon as I sent the first few chapters off my heart did that flutter thing, and I wondered if I would be able to open her reply.
Lucky for me I did.
She pointed out my flaws in my writing, which I was either unaware of, or subconsciously ignored.
At first my heart sort of stopped, and my stomach fell out. All my hard work suddenly seemed wasted. I've been developing this story since the start of 2010, when the snow in my garden inspired me to write the piece of work I'd been longing to.
(And if anyone sees my first drafts then I think I would die of embarrassment. Oh the shame, what was I thinking? How could that possibly be my best work?)
I, eventually, proceeded to show my Mum the email, who pointed out the positives to me. (There were some brilliant positives – once I began breathing again I smiled with pride, and blushed too.) Then we had a long discussion, where I cried.
The one thing my Mum said to me that sticks out in my mind is, 'You being critiqued is good for me too, I'm learning to see what I should have seen before. It's fantastic,' she went on to say, 'This advice is great, but as she (my critique partner) says, and so do I, ultimately the story is yours to tell. Tell it how you want to.'
After that we went out for a while, and I didn't really think much about it. Or at least I tried not to. My thoughts couldn't help but mull over how much work I had to do (it really isn't that much, but my mind seemed to disagree), and how little time there was to do it in (that part still feels true).
When I arrived back home I took another look at the edits, and set about reworking the first few pages.
Already I feel so much more fulfilled and satisfied with my work. It feels richer and cleaner, and now I am aware of my weaknesses and strengths, I have things in mind to work on.
Seriously, this stranger will never know how much I owe her. And my Mum. Two amazing women, who's acquaintance with me is at opposite ends of the spectrum, but right now I am valuing them both in high esteem.
When I started this year I wanted to share my work with others. I am so happy I took the plunge. I feel so much more knowledgeable, it's an indescribable feeling when someone says your story is worth telling. It's just my craft needs some work.
I know it will take time (sigh) but I need to continue to learn patience if I want my writing to be the best it can be.
So yes, getting critiqued is hard, but the rewards are splendid.
Besides, you wouldn't want any old thing out there would you? Not when you are capable of so much more.