Take me for example. A middle-aged, overweight woman doing her weekend chores in mis-matched bacon-grease-splattered sweats and my did-I-forget-to-brush-it hair up in a haphazard ponytail. Bad morning-coffee breath, no bra support, and fat rolls thanks to kids, love of food, and DNA. Yep, I cut a fine figure.
So when hubby comes up behind me and enfolds me in his arms, making hubba-hubba noises, bumping my backside with his pelvis, kissing on my neck and telling me I’m more beautiful than a young Helen Mirin who happens to be on the television at the moment… it’s all I can do to keep from laughing and checking him into the mental hospital.
Then I tell myself he’s acting this way because I’m making bacon, which would tug at the heartstrings of any sane person.
Then I tell myself he feels this way because I’m the mother of his children and a loving wife… naturally, he appreciates having a competent and willing accomplice in life.
Then I stop myself from my mental self-flagellation because my husband isn’t a liar or superficial. He’s telling the truth: he thinks I’m beautiful. And while I might not feel it at the moment… while I might not agree with his opinion, I can’t deny it because it is his opinion. I might scoff at it, but I try to do that inwardly because I wouldn’t want anyone to scoff at my opinions or choice of wine or my preference in reading materials, etc.
I think we writers can tend to do this very same thing with our own books. While we're thrilled that readers like them, part of us questions whether the reader needs to be checked into a mental hospital. Surely our writing isn't that good, no matter what anyone says. Surely, when our writer friends say nice things about our books, they're only being supportive because that's what good writer friends do for each other. And if/when a reader comments that our writing isn't good, we naturally get upset (who wouldn't?) but part of us also secretly feels vindicated because we knew we were frauds as authors and someone finally had the guts to call us out on it.
There's no pearl of wisdom here, because I obviously struggle with the ugly demons of self-castigation... But the truth is that everyone is entitled to their opinion on our writing. While we'd like for those who don't like it to keep their opinions to themselves, we also need to check our own opinions about our writing. Rather than nit-picking the things we wish we would have done better/differently on a story already published, let's embrace it and call it beautiful. At the moment we determined "This story is the best I can write," we beheld beauty. And while that may be a matter of opinion, it's our opinion.
At this moment, my husband is the “beholder” and is entitled to his opinion of beauty. Which happens to be me. So I swallow my laughter and words of denial, turn to him with a come-hither smile on my face and say something like, “Hey stud… could you empty the dishwasher for me?”