On Writing: Sharing

Some advice I picked up somewhere along the way. While working on a project, be it big or small, personal or professional or somewhere in the between, do not show it to people until it is done. One way around this is to just break the project up in to small parts and call them done whenever you want feedback. That’s cheating though.

This is actually good advice. I have come up against it. Proud of the first ten-thousand words of my awesome amazing new story I foolishly, fervently showed it to any friends and family members who would listen, or read, rather. After going around with a smile on my face and a stack of paper in my hand I came back to my beloved Smith-Corona and produced precisely dick.

When working on something, I tend to get drawn in. The longer the work, the more lonely it can become. Although I can explore the rich worlds I create and populate, I sometimes get sick of my own company and yearn for another living, breathing being.

I never realized just how lonely writing can be until I strapped in and attempted the long haul. An experience so traumatic I have yet to endure it again. We need outside input. I think of my mind as an engine, a complex machine that takes a form of fuel and transforms it into something necessary.  There are some who would say that the art of the written word is unnecessary; but I assert that it is, in fact, the most necessarily human thing there is.

The thing that separates us from the other apes is our ability to communicate. Other animals can reason, implement tools and even go to war. The human ability to share information and to then record and store that information is our only advantage over our primate primos. Okay, not the only advantage, but come on man, think where we would be without language. We’d be those cave-man guys from your childhood memories of museum exhibits.

Language, expression, shared knowledge and the ability to build upon that knowledge as opposed to resetting it with every generation has taken us to the space age, and soon beyond. Therefore my mind-engine, and yours too, is a vital and necessary cog in the vast machine of humanity.

The fact that we are so dependent on our interconnectivity is the very reason that we so often seek that interaction. It is instinctual. It is the reason we are who and what we are today.

When writing you may feel compelled to share your unfinished work with a friend, someone close, someone who you think you can trust to tell it like it is. Don’t. I appreciate the need to share with somebody, either because you need feedback or because you are simply lonely in your vast new world. Share your work with an online community. Internet strangers who will give you honest advice and not worry about hurting your feelings.

Your wife just watched you toil over that piece for the last six weeks. Up all night, unable to focus, angry at the real world because you were trying to get your fantasy world to come together just right. She saw you pour your heart and soul onto those sheets of paper. Do you really think she wants to tell you it sucks, if it sucks? And even if she is able to offer real constructive criticism, which is highly unlikely, do you think you’ll accept it, or use your familiarity and comfort level to steam-roll her feedback and justify why your way is the right way?

Seriously, don’t put your loved ones through that. They want you to be happy just as much as you want to be a good writer. They think that telling you it’s good, even when it isn’t, is the right thing to do.

Internet strangers are an invaluable resource. There are so so many groups you can join online and get instant access to feedback, tips and lively discussion. You can also look in to local groups at your public library or community centre. Life can get hectic at times, but if you have the luxury of free time, adding a little bit of structure can go a long way when it comes to being a productive writer.

Good luck guys. Peace and long life,

Hector.

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