Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how verbal we writers are.
I mean, obviously. These ain’t numbers we’re making up stories with, here.
But what I mean is, we like to talk. We like to toss around story ideas, we like to ask for each other’s opinions on passages we’re working on, we like to send each other snippets and get feedback, etc.
Well, some of us do, anyway.
What I’ve discovered the past couple of months is that I’m not one of those people. I’m perfectly willing to talk to other people about their work, if they approach me for my opinion and feedback; however, I am extremely reluctant to talk about my own work.
Part of that stems from a lack of confidence on my part. I’m always full of doubt when it comes to my writing:
Is this crap?
Is this laughable?
Why am I doing this?
I mean, I don’t want to expose the shameful truth of my ineptitude to others, you know? And talking about my WIP is just one more way to risk exposure. So, you see, anytime you see me talking about one of my stories here on my blog or on Twitter or whatever, it’s actually an act of EXTREME courage on my part.
Yeah. That’s me, y’all.^
The other reason I don’t like to talk about my work mainly applies to the first draft stage. Now, during revisions, yeah, I LOVE having people read my work, offer their feedback, and mark up my pages with their suggestions.
But, during the first draft stage?
Oh god no.
Some will say that they depend on talking about their stories with others to get the job done, even and maybe especially while writing the first draft. Their creative process partially depends upon conferring with others right from the start.
For me, it’s the opposite, and I’m wondering what everyone else out there does at this stage.
For me, it’s sort of like when you first begin a relationship. It’s so fresh and new and fragile. You maybe want to give it a chance to develop and find its feet before shouting it to the rooftops for all the world to hear.
Likewise, when we’re writing the first draft, we’re just getting to know our characters, our story worlds, our plots. We’re discovering surprising things about the story we thought we were going to tell. Sometimes, what we write throws us for a loop. The process is tentative, curious, exploratory, and often just downright moody. It makes us feel vulnerable. We wonder if this will crash and burn, if it will be a waste of time, or if it will turn out to be as awesomely fantastic as it is in our heads.
When faced with this sort of uncertainty, I don’t want to talk about it. I want to keep the whole thing under wraps until I know it better, until my footing is surer, until we at least round a couple of bases and fart in front of each other, for crying out loud.
I mean, what if I start gushing about a new project and then it falls flat on its face? What if I spend countless chat sessions probing my writerly friends for reactions and feedback on a story that ends up never solidifying for some reason?
I’ll tell you what would happen: I’d feel as stupid as someone who had gushed to all her friends about this new guy in her life “omggggggg he looks like the lovechild of Han Solo, Chris Pine, and Malcolm Reynolds, and he’s British, and omggg he is the ONE, y’all, I think we’ll have an autumn wedding” — and then we break up, and it turns out, he wasn’t that great, and I have to go blushingly explain this to all my friends who were wondering when we’re gonna go dress shopping.
When I met up with my darling Kait for lunch a couple of months ago, she asked me about Cracked, and I told her all. Afterward, on the drive home, I experienced a small flare of regret. “Great,” I thought. “Now she KNOWS. Omg now there’s all this PRESSURE. AGH. What if it SUCKS? I will feel ASHAMED. SHAME and INADEQUACY.”
I think some of us writers thrive on those feelings of pressure. We like having people know about our burgeoning new stories because it creates a certain accountability. We feel that, since So-and-So and Awesomesauce Writer Gal and Miss Fabulous know about our super sekrit Solo-Pine-Reynolds British lovah, we have a certain duty to see it through, to tie the knot, to relish the honeymoon before entering the marriage stage, aka, revisions, aka, real, bloody, grit-your-teeth COMMITMENT.
Some of us writers also just work better with others. We like bouncing ideas off of people, even in those fragile beginning stages.
Some of us.
Me? I think it’s probably a good thing to stay tight-lipped while we’re completing our first drafts. That way, it’s more wholly ours, and we’re able to get the story we originally dreamed of down on paper without a lot of outside influence. It’s purer that way. We can enjoy that innocent, intimate connection between ourselves and our work before exposing it to the world, before we have to change it from what it once was to what it needs to be.
I’d rather keep it a secret until we’re about to set sail for Maui — me, in a fabulous dress; it, all freshly printed and happily unaware of the red pen that will soon slash it to pieces. “See y’all later! Oh, bee tee dubs, we got married!”
Otherwise, maybe all the chit-chat about how beautiful our revision babies will be would scare the poor dear away.
Of course, every writer is different, and that’s what makes me curious:
Do you like to chat it up during the first draft stage? During revisions? During both? Or are your lips sealed? Does your writing process depend on sharing or secrecy? Please share below!