A couple of weeks ago a dramatic development at my regular day job (involving Amazonian sized bugs and fumigation) gave me a couple of unexpected hours to myself. I had a printed copy of Dancing Hours with me, which I have never actually read from beginning to end because I wrote it in sections and put it together after the fact. I would imagine many authors work this way... living with their characters and furiously writing when inspiration hits.
I was looking forward to spending time with the book and reading it as my readers would. I went to one of my favorite coffee shops, got a drink and sat in a quiet corner with a pen and my pages.
I must have been feeling ruthless that day - I was crossing out and rewriting and generally being critical of the entire thing. My biggest complaint was the pace of the book. It felt too fast, like I didn't spend enough time developing the scenes and exploring the characters.
Then, unexpectedly, another mom that I sort of know and sort of don't from my kids' school came in. As she left I said a polite hello and she sat with me. We chatted for a few minutes and she made some sort of vaguely racist remark about another school having 5 different ethnicities in attendance and I was left speechless. The few short minutes after that, I wasn't sure what to say. I was pretty sure I would be avoiding future conversations with her, though.
When she left I turned back to my book. It looked abused. I had not treated it with the care and love that I'd written it with. I realized that the pace of the book seemed out of sync because I have almost memorized the book I've read and reread so many times. So I decided to put it down, back away slowly and let my mind drift to other things - the next book, perhaps, which has been pushing its way into my head since I wrapped up this one.
I hope that when I come back to Dancing Hours, I can respect it for what it is. It is my first novel... much like a first crush. I hope that I don't put it out there and have my hopes dashed against the rocks, but I have to remember that criticism is a gift. Maybe it will be like the weird Christmas sweater my mom gave me one year, but it's the thought that counts.