It’s the holiday season, which means a lot of time is going to spent with family and friends. This is a very good thing! However, when people ask what you’ve been up to and you tell them that you’ve been writing fiction, poetry—anything at all—they’re more than likely going to ask if they can read it.
At the end of the day, the only two answers are yes and no. Both come with some implications and consequences.
If you say no, the following could happen. Your friends may think you’re just lying about writing. As inconsequential as that really is, it can get a little old when people constantly harass you over being so secretive with your work. They could also feel that you don’t think they’re smart enough to understand what you’ve written. Writers are stereotyped as pretentious anyway, so you don’t want your friends of all people to think that you’re just another pompous writer. Finally, they could worry that they’re featured in the writing, and perhaps in an unflattering way. None of these are desirable outcomes, and there are many more hypothetical scenarios, but there are also some seriously bad things that can happen if you let your friends read what you’ve written.
First of all, if you say yes, that means you have to get them a copy of it. You can do google docs or other file sharing systems, but if you write longhand and only have one hard copy, it’s risky giving out your only copy of your future magnum opus. Beyond that, when they do actually read it, they could potentially give you false criticism. Better yet, lack thereof. They’re your friends after all, the last thing they want to do is tell you that they hated reading what you wrote. This leaves you with the false impression that a potentially heavily flawed work is actually very good. On the other end of the spectrum, your friend could basically just say “that sucked” and completely deflate your hopes of succeeding as a writer. It’s a real conundrum.
At the end of the day, words of wisdom I received from a mentor come to mind: “Rule number one of writing a novel is don’t tell anybody that you’re writing a novel.”
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