I’ve had this exact same reaction as Tycho.
People occasionally compliment me on my writing: they will say something like, “I like your writing,” which is constructed in such a way that I cannot wriggle from it. I accept the compliment because my momma raised me right; refusal of a gift is the first sin. But this is respiration for me. This is the sound of me breathing out; I can’t not do it. Though I suppose I could stop, and die.
I know what shape a piece of language has to conform to, and once I have the mold, words just fall into it. [snip] I’m not telling you this to make you think that I am clever or interesting – I’m trying to explain why it is difficult to absorb compliments for what feel like autonomic responses. Most of the words I’m using are just English words, right off the shelf, with the occasional aftermarket mod. I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything that could not be accomplished as well or better with refrigerator magnets.
I’m happier to accept compliments than Tycho is, but I share the same bemusement as he does. Writing is very straightforward for me: I start, and when I’m done, I stop. It all works out, somehow.
PS: If it makes anybody feel any better; I can’t get my head around learning how to swim. I just can’t seem to get the knack. I’m horrible at foreign languages, too. I wouldn’t mind having either of those things become suddenly untrue.