I've been giving people bits and pieces of my work. Short stories, snippets of CM, a few pages here and there.
And the oddest thing happens. I don't really know what to do about it.
People don't totally hate it. In fact, some of them even like my stuff.
Really. They LIKE it. Do you know what that means? It means that to someone out there, I don't suck. It gives me hope that maybe I can actually take my WIP somewhere for real—that perhaps, someday, an agent might fall in love with it as well, and that I might be able to share it with people in a form other than a MSWord document with typos and red squigglies underneath the occasional Swedish word. If I could, it would be wondrous. That's a beautiful feeling.
Granted, of course, these are things I've always wanted—but the knowledge that people who-are-not-me like it, even in its rough draft format, makes it seem slightly more feasible. I mean, of course the story is fine and dandy in my head—I'm supposed to like it, because I wrote it—but if an outside, relatively unbiased source also thinks it's not horrific, that comforts me tremendously. It means that I'm not entirely delusional.
And then, after I have a few moments or hours of heartwarming belief in myself, I start to worry. What if that itty-bitty piece that Very Kind Person liked was just a fluke? A rare moment of good writing amidst a sea of adverbs, passivity and telling? What if I really am a talentless hack, and said Kind Person was under the influence of some Doctor Who-style perception filter?
Or—if the piece really was decent—how do I know I can ever do it again? What if the rest of it doesn't live up?
And, by that point, I'm usually overcome by All the Angst.
Yet, the last time this happened, I realized that I've heard that exact same fear voiced many times over by countless authors—you know, published authors with contracts and all that. The same fear of what if seeps through the Internet, apparently, infecting countless authors—highly talented people with incredibly masterful storytelling ability.
It wasn't just me. It was everyone.
I realized that I will never be good enough for myself—pursuing perfection is nice in theory, but inherently disappointing in practice. It doesn't matter how many drafts I write, because there will always be things I could do better. I will keep learning for years, I imagine, but striving for perfection can only result in failure, and those what ifs are poison in the storytelling veins.
So. No more what ifs. No more not good enough. Just writing, and reading, and learning.
That really is all I can do in the end.