I'm sending out one of my short stories to try and get it published. It's a rabid field. Filled with thousands, millions of frantic typists like myself who think, because they have memorized Home Row, they are worthy to be paid for stuff they just make up between reruns of Star Trek.
Sometimes I am under the deluded impression that I am special among the countless rank and file, that perhaps I can string together words just slightly better than the next bloke who can never spell 'weird' correctly and always smells of cheap cheese.
This delusion, of course, comes from friends, family, and yes, even strangers. I'll pass a piece I'm working on to a family/friend, they'll read, it, and think (or only say out loud) that it is indeed, the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe even the best thing since sliced pizza (which is when I know they are lying, some fibs are just too big).
I'll even submit it to any sundry number of online critique forums, where, admittedly, they don't exactly gush over it. But they don't quash it like the rubbish it quite rightly is. But when you are counting on that very same person you are critiquing to critique your 5000 word short story about a semi-sentient bat who has an affair with the farmer's daughter before ridding the world of the Robotical Demonoid Dragon King Ur'zahkoonaga, you tend to go a bit easy.
This is all a very round about way of saying that one can never, ever be sure if the fiction one writes is any good. Never. Or at least, I've not gotten to the point where I can tell. Which is a cruel trick of the gods, in my opinion. It's like being a painter, making your creation in the dark, and then sending it out sight unseen hoping that it's in fact, a painting of a gazelle on the serengetti and not a feeble attempt at erotic plush velvet art featuring My Little Pony and the only boy in the Strawberry Shortcake universe.
What makes this even more aggravating is that one isn't sure if the stuff you are sweating and grinding out is actually terrible, or just terrible for that one editor who has sent you a form letter with a neatly printed personal note at the bottom to 'Please, please stop sending me fiction, my eyes can only bleed so much until I'll need yet another transfusion'.
Is the piece crap? Or is that editor's taste just not yours? Is it any good? Or do you need to go through the requisite mountains of rejections? At what point does one just blindly believe in (what always sounds magnificently pompous) "the work"?
It's a balance between pig-headed faith in yourself and a sensitivity to the objective quality of your writing. One has to constantly shovel (yes, I do realize the image that brings up, its not entirely inappropriate) your work out there, blindly, hoping that at some point, some near sighted editor lets it slip by and you no longer have to wonder. As much.