It’s happened before. Arrogance and fear combined to make humble pie.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I locked my eyes on the first page of a book and immediately criticized and picked apart the author’s work. I chuckled into the sheets, half-heartedly hiding my condescension from my wife. “Can you believe this amateur?” I asked myself, only out loud so that I wasn’t alone in the reveal.
I flipped to the inlay. My dubious smile sputtered. Oh, only six bestsellers?
I suppose it comes with the territory, after all I’m constantly criticizing my own work. So it’s not that surprising that I find fault in someone else’s. I’m also constantly telling myself, this is doable, you can do it. I’m the first to admit that, when it comes to my writing goals, I have an inflated ego with an unreasonable critic as its sidekick. This push and pull is often exhausting enough to stop me in my tracks. I also see it as the only way to get there – wherever there may be.
“That’s a tell right there, on the second page,” I mumbled. “It’s a little repetitive, isn’t it?”
It wasn’t that I had started to annoy myself, which I had. It even wasn’t that the pure enjoyment I once had in reading, just about anything, was clearly eroded by my own insecurities. What was it? I read the subsequent pages without further comment, and allowed the story to turn on and utterly fall into a rhythm without a rail to grab a hold of. Oh, and I loved it.
It was only when I set the book on my lap and look up at the ceiling that the realization materialized into an accurate thought, free from doubt or self-preservation. Fuck. This is good. It was incredibly well written. How did he effortlessly take me from one era to another? From one continent to another? How did he find such beautiful words (that at the same time didn’t make me want a refund from the universities I still cut a check to)?
When I get a slice, I savor it. We all have to start somewhere. How many drafts came before this author’s sixth book? How many “failures” or “successes” escaped beneath the radar?
Sometimes reading the good stuff is hard. I’ll admit that, even if I’m not proud to do so. There are those authors that make it seem easy, earning the right to break the conventional rules as they see fit, to quiet the wannabes and book snobs from the throes of their sheets. But at the end of the day, the only way to burn through the weight of humble pie, is to get back out there and write those drafts, endure the failures, and take humility in the small successes that pave the way to the there. Well that, and for God’s sake, enjoy a good book when it comes along.