Is it valuable to get over your nerves and talk to others about your writing?
Some authors are thrilled to talk about their writing. I’ve heard of writers whose friends and family wish they would stop endlessly oversharing about their work. I envy those people who feel so free and open with their writing.
I am generally very closed off about what I write. The number of people in my daily life who know that I am a writer can be counted on one hand. Be it imposter syndrome, fear of being judged or laughed at, or just a desire to keep some things private, I don’t know. My writing feels very personal, and while it doesn’t bother me to have hundreds of strangers read my words, the thought of letting people I see face-to-face every day into that world terrifies me just a little.
I think it’s partially rooted in a feeling of not being good enough, but equally a vulnerability in the knowledge that allowing those around me to read my work opens up a window into deeper parts of me that I don’t share freely. There’s that ever-present fear that they just won’t understand. Do I want my coworkers to read a poem I wrote about feeling folded into duties and responsibilities until I crumple under the weight? Will my mother understand that my protagonist’s cold, distant, impossible-to-please mother is absolutely 100% no reflection of my own relationship with her? Is my work even good enough? Would people ask me awkward questions, treat me differently, or scoff at my art as silly?
It took me a long time before I felt comfortable discussing my novel’s plot with anyone. I soon realized that having a sounding board when I’m trying to work out a sticky plot point is invaluable. Sometimes just the act of saying it out loud can help ideas to congeal into something tangible. Having someone ask questions about my work has also proved infinitely helpful. Questions asked by others reveal parts that need to be fleshed out. Sometimes the question that needs to be asked is just out of my reach, but opening up my work to discussion with someone else can reveal the issue.
I stopped by The Coop by Chicken House Press the other day to chat with editor and publisher Alanna Rusnak. Her insight into some of my doubts was so helpful. She made several suggestions that, once said, seemed so magically clear and straightforward that I wondered why I hadn’t vocalized these questions before. She also suggested setting myself a deadline and committing to it by having beta readers on standby for a specific date—a simple suggestion, but one that had never occurred to me. I work best toward a deadline, and since I’ve been struggling so much with procrastination on my novel, having the accountability of getting someone else involved is going to be critical.
The moral of the story is: Talk about your writing. Writing can be such a solitary activity, but it simply cannot be done in isolation. Feedback, meaningful discussion, collaboration—it’s crucial. Next time you’re knocking your head against your desk, why not reach out? Whether it’s a fellow author you’ve connected with on social media, a friend or family member, or your Uber driver, talk it out. Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum.