Facing The Dreaded Feedback

I sent out the latest version of my first six chapters to one of my willing victims beta readers for a check to see if I am where I need to be.  I waited with breathless anticipation for her to respond. I could not wait to read her comments, to see her reaction, and to see her point out problems that I am blind to.

Or at least that was how I felt until her comments hit my inbox.  The file sat there for a week while I found any excuse I could to ignore it.  I was too tired from my day job and couldn’t think straight enough to process what she was saying.  I had to provide feedback for other people’s stories.  I had to write up some blog posts.  My mother needed my attention.  I have to work on the costume I’m entering into BayCon’s Variety Show.  The cat needed waxing.

I was doing everything possible to avoid reading those comments I had looked forward to so eagerly because I was afraid of what she would say.  She’s read earlier versions and gotten mostly positive feedback.  I need to tweak the execution here and there.  Fix sentence structures so it reads clearly and easily.  Add a few reactions and scenes here and there to emphasize emotional reactions.  This is all stuff I know and expect.  But part of me was certain, absolutely, unequivocally certain, that I would open the file to see the words “You suck!  Set fire to your hard drive and never touch a keyboard again!” scrawled across the page in red, seventy-two point font. I have yet to see those words in any files, but I’m certain they will there in the next set of comments I open.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened to me.  I have felt that way since I began writing fanfic mumble-mumble years ago. Opening my beta reader’s emails then was just as harrowing as opening them now.

I do eventually work up the courage to read her comments. I remind myself that they are constructive criticism meant to help me.  They are what I need to hear, even if I don’t want to hear it.  They are not meant to tear down my work, but build it up.  Once I start reading them, I find the comments are helpful.  Getting past that first fear reaction and to the point where I can objectively read the comments always takes me a while, sometimes as long as a week.  I can’t say that I am getting better at diving in, but I am more aware of doing it.  I do wonder.  Do all authors go through this?  Does it get better?