I’ve recently been told by a friend that he has bought the book I wrote. This means that he will start to read it soon enough, and instead of being happy, I became dreadfully nervous. I know it’s strange, but the idea of strangers reading it isn’t half as nerve racking as opposed to someone you know. When I write, I write for myself. Sure – I have a reference audience that I aim to please, but if I don’t please myself, the story won’t go anywhere. Part of that makes writing very personal to me. These characters are all a piece of me in many ways.
This means that when someone reads the story, they are looking into your deepest self. They are, in a sense, learning about the real you. I guess the best way to describe this is to say that I don’t own a diary. I can’t keep up with it; I’ve tried because I’ve heard it’s a good tool for writing, but I can’t. I don’t find myself interesting enough to write about. My days are boring. But my characters’ days are interesting, and although they may not be going through what I am going through, a lot of the time our feelings intermingle. If I’m sad I’ll write a sad scene, if I’m happy I’ll write a happy scene or I’ll write the opposite of what I’m feeling in hopes to reach that. All of this means that when you read about the character being happy it means that I was likely happy on that day, and vice versa. Reading my novel in a lot of ways is like reading a more interesting version of my diary.
With this in mind you may be surprised to hear that when strangers read my work, I don’t mind. I find it interesting, I don’t get offended when reviewers dislike an aspect of it, instead it reminds me that writing is a constant working process and you can only get better through practice. But when someone I know reads it, it’s like I’m exposing myself and I hate that feeling. But I know I’m not the only one. Lots of people have trouble showing their work to others.
So how do we get over this ridiculous fear? One way is to forget about it; to choose not to think about the person who is reading it and hoping they don’t bring it up. Option 2: drive yourself crazy with worry. Option 3, learn from the experience and deal. So how do you deal? How about using it in your text? Maybe not directly, but use the emotions you’re feeling and execute them through your work.
Feeling embarrassed, exposed, vulnerable – aren’t all those feelings pretty typical in fiction? I don’t mean that in a bad way: I mean use those feelings and put them into your characters and it may help your writing. You never know how productive a day is going to be, but maybe trying to use your emotions as triggers for character development is a good use of your time. Instead of worrying use that worry to produce better fiction.
Having people read your work is tough, I know, I get it. But it’s part of the process. If no one critiques your work you can’t get better. So having others read it, especially people you trust, is a must for writers. You need notes to improve; it’s similar to writing an essay for school or for brainstorming an idea. The more people that look at it, the better it gets. You’ll get a more rounded outside opinion of your text, and that’s a good thing. It’s something every writer needs. Say you want a character to be charming, but after others read it they say he’s more creepy than charming. You would have kept writing about this creepy dude thinking he was a delight and never know it. Then when you’re finished and you show it off you’d be confused as to why people are responding the way they are. Wouldn’t it have been better to save yourself all that hard work and fix it early? Having others read your work is only going to help you. SO LET IT HELP YOU.
Believe it or not, your friends want to read your work to help you, they want to share your talent with them. Writing may be a very personal thing, but writing is meant to be read, it’s a form of communication, it’s not meant to be kept a secret. Let your work speak to others, let others help you improve your work. Use the uncomfortableness help you in your work. Make the best of it, even if it is incredibly uncomfortable. Don’t stress about it, because eventually someone is going to have to read your work, fiction is meant to be read.