Today I have been thinking about writing…and about starting this blog…and about how terrifying that is. Seriously, all of my insecurities, doubts, and frontal lobe rational thoughts start screaming at me when I even consider sharing my work with one person, let alone a blog open to the whole internet. This leads to the question of why. Why am I – along with many other authors – so reluctant to share my writing with others? I’m not talking about first draft writing, nobody should have to see that stuff. I’m talking about, polished, edited, this is as good as I am currently capable of making this portion of writing right now, pieces of work.
I don’t think there is just one answer to this question, even for myself. But, I think, in general, I hesitate to share my writing because of two broad factors. The first is insecurities about my writing. Man, do I have a lot of those, some of them justified, some of them all in my head. I’m going to devote an entirely separate blog post to those, otherwise, you’d be reading this post all day. The second reason is what I want to focus on today, and that reason is nudity.
No, not literal nudity, but emotional nudity. The stories that I write come from inside me. They are my babies, nurtured in my mind and birthed onto the page. Unveiling these inner workings of my soul to somebody, even a trusted friend, feels like literal nakedness. Sometimes it is even worse because it is an inner nakedness, a vulnerability. If someone reads my story and hates it, it is like they hate me as a person. And it is hard, downright impossible, not to take that personally. It’s ok if people think my writing is poor. Writing is a technical skill that I am constantly growing and developing. But if people read my story, see past the technique to the core, and still find it unworthy – that would hurt.
Sometimes this fear of having somebody see the real me, and disapprove of it, keeps me from sharing my stories with those closest to me. My mom, my husband, and some of my closest friends have barely read a word of any of my novels. Not because they didn’t want to, but because I was afraid of their judgment. I was, and still am, terrified they will read the words and somehow think less of me. I spent a long time, covering my writing body up with big sweatshirts and thick sweat pants, hiding it so that no one really knew what it looked like. Until I found my writing buddy Kayla.
I like to think of Kayla as the gym, salon, and spa combo package that gets my writing body ready for bikini season. I show up to her house naked (figuratively of course) and she has eyes to see the parts of my body that I can’t. In a loving and gentle way she tells me, “you’re bum is a big saggy” (meaning your pacing here is a little slow), and “your arm pits are looking a little sasquachy” (aka you’ve lost the thread of your plot, are you going somewhere with this?) Then together with a yoga mat (high action adjectives) and a razor (delete button) we get my body of writing beach ready. It is only because I trusted her with the nakedness of my raw story, that she can see its core value, and then help me improve both the story, and the writing supporting it.
She has to do a lot of work too. It’s not enough for her to just point out the flaws, but she has to be able to provide suggestions to fix them. I then get to take a look at her writing and return the favor.
I have seen huge results from this partnership. Plot holes have been prevented, characters have been saved from the brink of bland, and scenes that I didn’t think I was capable of writing have been pushed through to completion. And it all started with having the bravery to expose my writing.
Now, I am not recommending we start sharing our writing with everybody we can as soon as we draft something. That can create writer’s block from the anxiety of knowing what we write has to be good enough to share. Rather, I believe as authors who do want to someday share our stories with the whole world we need to be brave enough to start by sharing with one person.
Just like our bodies, our writing, and our stories will never be perfect in everyone’s eyes. There will be those who judge it unfairly and speak cruelly about it. Having a supportive writing buddy helps keep me grounded and helps me distinguish constructive criticism, from hateful criticism. That feeling of encouragement, support, and shared passion is why we started Silver Sky Press in the first place.
So what does it look like to be a good writing buddy, and to let your writing buddy do good work for you?
- Look for positives as well as negatives: pointing out the good things along with the bad helps to build a writer’s confidence, and keeps them from getting caught up in their flaws
- Supply solutions to a story’s problems: sometimes knowing what to fix isn’t enough, writers can get stuck and need help figuring out how to fix their errors
- Be gentle but thorough: you are handling someone’s baby, but only giving compliments won’t help a writer to grow either. Find a balance
- Don’t get defensive: your buddy is only trying to help, and yes it is possible for you to be wrong, hear them out before you decide they are in error
- Be brave: big risks can lead to big rewards learning to be brave with one person can help you be brave with many
- Be open about your insecurities: caution your buddy to avoid poking at areas you are self-conscious about, or better yet use their insights to help strengthen those weaknesses
These interactions happen between a writer and their trusted partner, but this also happens whenever an author publishes a book. As a reader who also writes, I am making it my goal to see books through the lens of a writing buddy. Instead of pointing out all the flaws, and why I hated the story I want to figure out what could have been done to strengthen the weakest parts. I think this helps me as a writer, and it just might help out the other author as well. Let’s build a community, and a world where authors can share freely, readers critique graciously, and everyone’s stories are better for it!
Do you have a writing buddy? If you do awesome! Tell us what you love about them in the comments below. If you don’t here’s a Facebook group – created by an awesome blogger – where you could meet your next writing soul mate.
Stay amazing my friends!