I've been reading over my collection of short stories and trying to evaluate which ones are better than others and why. It's an overwhelming challenge for writers to read over their work with any degree of objectivity in the first place. What seemed like a brilliant idea when they first got started begins to feel empty and lifeless, the words lying hollow and stilted on the page. I know that most writers are poor judges of their own work, yet I sit in judgment of my stories, analyzing what makes them sing, what makes them hold the reader's attention, what (I hope) make the reader want to laugh or cry.
My conclusion brings me no comfort. It's my own vulnerability on display, my own pain that makes my writing real. My secret fears, disguised in the cloak of a story, are what holds my reader's attention. If I am to achieve any success as a writer, I will have to force my soul to stand naked on the stage and share everything about myself that I'd rather hide. I will have to strip away the mask that smiles when I want to cry. I will have to open when I want to close. I will have to face judgment with humility. That is my task.