I don't know about the rest of you, but I know my biggest enemy to my writing is myself. My worst quality is my ability to completely over think something and get myself turned around rather than listening to my gut, to my instinct. The worst part is I know I'm over thinking something, but when I over think, I develop a mental block that is hard to get around.
That happened to me with a short story. Yesterday I got a really great personal rejection for it to a place I had subbed and the specifics in that rejection helped clear a mental block and get me back on track.
It's kind of odd, but I've never been so grateful and so happy for a rejection.
A little about this story: I started writing it a while back. I had a concept that I really liked, and when I came up with the concept I had to make the decision to write a short story or save it for something of length. I started writing and chose short story. The problem for me was that I had been focused on something of length for months and, essentially, forgot all the important things needed to write a good short story. As a result, I ended up with something that really was too complex for the length.
The thing was I didn't realize it at the time. In fact as I kept writing away, my instinct kept niggling at me:
Are you sure that's clear enough?
What if you just wrote the story with out all these scenes?
That's a clever point, but are you sure that's the direction you want to go in?
Those fears kept nagging me until I finished. I just sensed something wrong about it but at the time I couldn't put my fingers on it or I couldn't get the words, but I knew it was off from what I usually write for short stories.
Finally, I just subbed the thing out. And when it was rejected, the comments addressed the exact same things that worried me as I was writing. Seeing it, in black and white, how someone didn't quite understand a few things suddenly cleared the cobwebs from my mind. I realized exactly what had been bothering me, exactly where the heart of the story should be and how it should be presented.
Short stories are all about focus. If you have too many things going on, the story gets messy, confusing, and that had been my problem. I had put in too many focuses, to many themes, in too short a time and it didn't come together as it should. You leave multiple themes and foci for the novels. The realization hit me like a brick, and then I got two new ideas for short stories that actually will be proper short stories.
This is why good personal rejections are so important. Even the best writer in the world can't be great all the time and when we get ourselves in a funk its hard to pull yourself out. Sometimes you need that outside voice, that person who reads a lot, but is so separate from you to say, "Hmm, this doesn't make sense. I wanted more from a scene." Also, good personal rejections can really allow you to grow if you take them, consider them and learn from them if there is anything that needs to be learned.
Don't fear a personal rejection or criticism of a piece. Embrace it. It is one of the most important things a writer can receive.