I have a critic who lives in my head. I call her Zelda. On a side note, if you have a critic living in your head, I suggest you name her or him or it and treat them like another person. It seems to help. Anyway, Zelda can, occasionally, be helpful. But mostly, she is not.
Case in point, exhibit A if you will, is a mentor program offered up by my Women's Fiction group. The group decided to start a mentor/mentee program. The pilot program would last for three months, during which the mentor would answer questions, do a little hand holding, and maybe critique a few pages of work by the mentee. It was a fabulous idea. But I decided to sit it out. I've been at this writing thing for 20 years now, and I felt a mentor wasn't exactly what I needed. And as far as being a mentor? Well, that's where Zelda comes in. She told me I wasn't qualified. I knew she'd continue to nag at me, and I didn't need the aggravation.
Then I got a message from the Women's Fiction group in my e-mail box. The mentor program had oodles of writers signing up to be mentored but not enough to do the mentoring. The people putting together the program were sending out another call and hoped more mentors would step up and volunteer. So I thought about it again, thought about all the various experiences I'd had over the years of my writing journey, and decided to offer up my services.
As expected, Zelda had a little something to say about this. Actually, she had a lot to say about this.
We had a heated conversation about it.
"What makes you think you can be a mentor?" Zelda asked. She looked at me kindly, letting me know she was again trying to save me from myself.
I considered my answer. "Well, I have been writing for over 20 years."
"Honey, there are writers who began as children, scribbling three word stories in crayon. Writing a long time does not make you an expert."
She was already beginning to get to me. "Okay, I ran a writing workshop for twelve years."
Zelda swooshed a hand through the air like batting away a fly. "That little thing? You never had more than a dozen students at time. It was purely local-yokel."
"It was designed to limit to a few students," I was not about to let her belittle twelve years of my life. "And so what if it was local?"
"All right fine. It was a wonderful little program. But all you did was encourage first drafts. You didn't get into the meat and potatoes of critique, did you?"
It was true, the program I ran was to encourage first drafts. Critique wasn't part of it. "I've worked with critique partners. I've worked with editors. Last I looked..." I stopped to make a count in my head "I have 9 novels, 4 novellas, and a bunch of short stories in my publishing credits."
"Published by teeny tiny publishers." She made a small space with her thumb and forefinger to illustrate.
"They were published by publishers."
"If only there were sales involved. If you write a book that has no sales, have you really written a book?"
She knew this would be a stinging blow. And it was. Every time lack of sales come up, I feel like a total incompetent. But I wasn't ready to give in yet. "I've gotten great reviews."
This made her role her eyes. "Please tell me you're not going to say my friends like my books. You might as well say your mother liked them."
"Come on. That's not fair. I've gotten actual reviews from people I don't know. I've won awards."
"What? The teeny tiny publisher awarded your novel book of the year?"
"Not just my publisher. I've won an EPIC. "
She looked at me and shook her head. "Hardly a Pulitzer, is it?"
She'd done it again. Totally dejected, near tears, I told her she'd won. "You're right. I'm an abject failure. I don't know why I'd think I have anything to offer anybody."
Zelda gave me a hard stare. "No one likes a whiner. Cut it out and stop feeling sorry for yourself."
Thanks for reading this month's therapy session. For more writer insecurities, check out the Insecure Writer's Blog hop by clicking on the link below.