And because you're so protective of your beloved, even if people say 9 nice things, you only hear the negative 10th one. Your baby can't defend itself from attack so you rush in. This is good if you're a mother literally defending her child from wolves, but not if you're an author faced with a bit of criticism.
Last week a blogger called Big Al reviewed a book he'd read. It wasn't a bad review, saying he'd liked the story telling, but that it had been spoilt by grammatical mistakes and typos. It wasn't one of the main book review sites so it possibly wouldn't have received much attention except that the author chose to respond in - ahem - a rather negative manner. A couple of comments followed. The author responded again. Big Al posted some examples of the sentences that didn't make much sense. Commenters laughed. The author responded again, reducing her comments to the admirably succinct, though inadvisable, F*** Off. And so it merrily went on, the whole thing going viral around Twitter and lots of people pitching in, and a good time has been had by all who haven't been involved.
What I have learned about criticism, from both receiving and giving it, is that people generally want to be helpful. They want your work to succeed. They will offer what comments they can to help improve the writing. They may be wrong or ignorant, but their motives are rarely bad. They don't want to hurt your baby, they want it to look the very best it can.
In fact, you should welcome criticism, not reject it. Your friends may think they're doing you a favour by saying your writing is lovely, perfect, wonderful, but the chances are they're not telling you that your baby has a great splodge of dirt across its face. You could wipe that dirt off easily, if you knew it was there.
And that's what criticism is for: to help you present your baby to the wider world in the best way possible. That's all. You don't have to agree with it but you should know that opinion is out there, even if it comes with a raft of personal preferences and prejudices - I've never liked seeing wispy baby hair tied up in little bows, for example, just as I'm not a fan of present tense narratives.
Once people get over their worries, giving and receiving criticism is a positive experience all round, and a very quick way to learn how to improve. I've seen this time and time again, both with my own writing and in class situations. I love getting feedback on my work - sure, it might make me wince at times, but I'd rather that than send my work out with a dirty face.
The bottom line is the more honest feedback you can get, the better your work will be.
NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/
Bath 3rd July Details are on my website