2 November 2014

CONFESSION: Why It's So Hard To Let Others Read Your Work

I'll be honest -- very much so -- in saying that I don't like to let most people read my writing.

It's a tad complicated, but this rule of mine seems to have several exceptions and loopholes. Mostly, it depends on the genre and subject matter of my writing, and the identity of the person who may potentially read my work.

Of course, it's not quite rational that I have this thought process. After all, unless I allow other people to scrutinize my work with a heavy red pen and a pair of critical eyes, none of my books (regarding present and future ones) can ever be placed on public shelves. Editors need to revise authors' compositions. Publishers need manuscripts to consider.

But here's the main point: it all makes me a little anxious.

For the most part (that is, when I'm not writing essays and research papers for school), I write poetry and fiction novels. And there tends to be a consistent pattern as to when I'm willing to hand over my work to another human being who -- gasp! -- might have criticism:

When I allow people to hear my poems

  • When I read them aloud voluntarily at poetry readings
  • When they must be edited by my peers in English class (typically as part of my grade)
  • When my school's curriculum requires that I write a poem (in general -- also for an assignment or grade)
  • When the subject matter is not negative or controversial
  • When I write them as a birthday or holiday gift to that person
  • When it's a damn good poem and I think it deserves attention (not to sound arrogant, but . . .)
  • When I know that they will be read by people whom I never have, and preferably never will, meet

When I allow people to hear my fiction

  • When I am not in the room
  • When it must be edited by my peers
  • When it is required (to be graded) by my English class's curriculum
  • When the subject matter is not overly dark or controversial
  • When, and only when, I am confident in my characters, dialogue, and plot
  • When I know that my audience is comprised mostly of people I haven't met

There are a couple of parallels between those lists, but the one that I am most familiar with is the final one.

I love writing. I have written for over ten years. I am a verbal person with great skills in writing. Writing, as well as reading, will be lifelong hobbies for me and can hopefully have a role in my career someday (so I trust).

The problem is that I fear judgment.

Erm, so why do you want to be an author, then? Well, it's because I have ideas to spread, thoughts to share, and points to make -- all through writing. That is, I want other people to read these things because I wrote them.

See, I won't mind having the public read my books or poems or whatever in the future. I look forward to it. I simply prefer having someone whom I don't know -- or whom I don't know well -- read my work, as opposed to having a close friend or a family member execute the same task.

I welcome people's opinions, including the negative ones. But writing is a vulnerable activity, and even if I'm the only person on this planet who feels this way, I'll state it: In my experience, when someone whom I am well acquainted with (like a friend or relative) reads my writing, I feel as though they never look at me in the same way.

Also, even though I am young and have never had any work professionally published, plagiarism is a very realistic anxiety I have. I expect this to get better in the future, when I can have my work protected under copyright laws . . . but if you've wondered why I haven't shared any of my writing on this blog yet, now you're aware.

There are people close to me who have read my work, complimented and praised it, and I thanked them, and we moved on. Those are good people. I like those people.

But there are others who don't do that. That's something I'm scared of, and here's the reason:

When a person whom you have never met (such as a single reader of a New York Times bestseller) reads your writing, then it's much simpler. They might not enjoy it, but that's easier to deal with because you, as the author, will likely never hear about their individual opinion. You don't know them personally and will probably never meet them. Besides, if they do appreciate your writing, then they might recommend it to others, purchase your books as gifts for their friends, send you nice fan letters, leave positive reviews of your books . . . The list goes on.

When somebody close to you reads your writing, then you can't take it back. You will continue to see that person in your life for a long time, and on a regular (daily, in some cases) basis, except now they know more about the inner workings of your mind.

And that, dear readers, is what scares me some.


  1. I see what you mean! When I write, I keep it to myself. There's just something so personal about writing that can only be shared with yourself.

    1. Exactly, and that's a good point! I think all I can truly do is allow my comfort zone to grow a little larger with time and practise.


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