And when I say bad, I mean bad enough to make you wonder how delusional the writer must be to think this should ever be shown to another human being. And is he delusional enough to come after you with a slingshot when you reject him?
I call this "The American Idol" effect. I was watching the early season, where dozens of singers who are worse than I am (and I can't sing, but at least I know it) stand in line overnight for a chance to audition. Now some just want to meet the celebrities and get on camera, and they figure the worse they are, the better. But others actually seem to think they "sing like an angel!" when they sing like a hound dog (one without rhythm). And almost always, they are shocked to be summarily bounced, and they protest that their family and friends LOVE their singing.
So anyway, I was watching, and I mentioned how delusional they seemed, and the dh said, "Aren't writers the same way? They think they're great writers, and they're terrible, but they don't know it?"
Hmmm. That's kinda true. I mean, we all (probably) think we're pretty darned good, maybe not James Joyce but a whole lot more readable.
What if we're WRONG??? How will we know?
And what if we're right? How will we know?
Boy, there's nothing more calculated to cause writer's block, I think.
Can we really judge our own work? I don't know. I know that I chortle and weep and marvel at my most self-indulgent prose-- I mean, really, the more self-indulgent, the more I like it. And I'm a pretty good judge of other's work (we all devoutly hope :), so... I'm right about mine, right? Maybe not. Maybe what I like most about it (you know, the alliteration in that line, and the very clever and personally meaningful villain name, and the total power of that blindness motif) is too precious, too obvious, too in-jokey to work for most anyone else.
And I'm always amazed at how so many terrific writers (by my measure) apologize for their work, denigrate it, call it bad names. Don't they know they're good?
Somehow it seems like we're never truly confident about our work... once we get pretty good at it, our standards just get higher and higher, and we think we fall short.
Anyway, it's a puzzle. How do you know you're writing well? CAN you know? Yeah, if you recently won the National Book Award, you probably have accepted your greatness, but short of that, how do you know? Feedback from others? How do you know whose judgment to trust?
It's not enough to say, "I'll know when I get published," because we know good stuff gets rejected and not-so-good accepted, and anyway, you have to improve and be pretty good to get to the point of submitting.
So... how do you judge yourselves?
I overheard a couple pre-teen girls in my family reading their stories to each other last Christmas, and one was very pleased with her writing, and one was mad at herself ("This is so bad!"). The latter (in my judgment) was better than the former, and yet the latter didn't think so.
Anyone? How do you come to an objective view of your own work? Can you tell when one piece you've written works and why, and why another doesn't work?