1. I am allowed to think I am good at something.
I don't know if it's a terribly British thing or what but I find it extremely difficult to admit that I am good at something or that I have a talent. Partly because I lack the confidence to think that I have, partly, I think, because I can't take the idea of someone going 'pfft, don't be stupid, of course you haven't'. It's a lack of self esteem thing. But I'm going to take the plunge...
I'm actually quite good at this writing thing you know.
More importantly, I'm beginning to see more and more what I'm good at, what I need to improve at and what I am just not as a writer (and shouldn't try to be).
2. I'm good at characterisation and plots.
The positive feedback I get most often is about my characterisation and plotting. I tend to get lots of comment about how my writing is so in character, so people can hear them saying the words in their heads, how I get the speech patterns and phrasing right. I also get lots of feedback about the content of the stories, about people liking the plots, particularly when I write the multi chapters stuff.
I'm good at characters. I just have a knack of getting them. I can hear the voices in my head and know instinctively what words they'd use. Maybe it's the old theatre studies training and acting experience coming out.
I love structuring and writing plots. I want people to be interested and surprised. I want them to want to know what happens next. That's why, whilst I can write smaller pieces, I get more joy out of the long plotty ones. And I'm pretty good at creating interesting, coherent plots. In the 'proper' (i.e. published) book I've been reading recently, that's my major criticism. There's some ambling beginning, a lot of middle and then an exciting end all tied up in about 30 pages. That doesn't do it for me. It feels...flabby. I like to think I can write myself a well paced plot where I've thought about character's motivation and emotional journey.
3. I'm not good at writing pretty.
When I read other people's stuff, I am jealous of their ability to write so prettily. To use beautiful similes and poetic language which makes their writing pretty and clever. I can't do it. My style is far more straight forward. And whilst I can write some phrasing I think is really nice, I'm usually far more focussed on what I'm trying to express than how I do it.
It kills me that I can't writing something which would make people say 'wow, that's beautiful'. I've tried it, but I lack the ability and, to me, what I come up with sounds stupid and rather pretentious. It sounds extremely false. Basically, the worst kind of purple prose.
BUT...that's okay. I don't have to do this to be a good writer. It just means that I have a different style from other and so what? There's no 'right' way of doing this after all.
4. I'm getting better at cutting the waffle.
Through the help of a couple of very good betas over the last few years I've got much better at cutting out the crap. I do have a tendency to repeat myself and there's times when I read things back going 'but they've already had this internal dialogue but in a different way elsewhere'. That's what I'm most open about as regards constructive criticism. Not my plots because that's like it or lump it. Not my characterisation because that's how I see them and feedback won't change that. But how I express it is okay to me. Suggestions for improvements are cool.
5. You never stop learning to be a better writer.
And people who think they do are fools. I don't understand it when people only want beta readers to tell them their spelling and grammar mistakes. As I said, I don't particularly want feedback on plots and characters (unless something seriously doesn't work), but getting feedback on how I've written and expressed things is very important imo. Just because you love the way you've written something doesn't mean that it works nor makes a blind bit of sense to anyone else. This is where you need a beta you trust though - because you should feel free to not take their advice if you wish without them having a fit
So, the tl:dr version...
It's okay to think you have talent. I know what I'm good at in writing and it's good stuff. I know what I can't do but that's not a problem; my writing is my style and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Goodness knows if I'd ever be able to make a living out of this but...Hey, at least I enjoy it.