What’s the most terrifying part of the writing process? Well, for many authors, it’s sharing. Ask to read their work, and the protests begin: “I haven’t quite finished.” “It’s not ready for someone to read.” “It’s not good enough yet.” “It has to go through an edit first.”
Handing over your words that you’ve slaved over for hours just to come up with the perfect verb or the most descriptive adjective can be daunting.
So, the question is…is it necessary? Should it be part of the writing process? Can’t we just write until our fingers ache and our mind bleeds with plots and characters, and then shelve it?
I guess you could, but why? If you’re journaling, yes, you may want to keep that private. But, if your hope is to get published, you should share it. Associated with sharing are the two F words: Fear and feedback. And, the fear is from the impending feedback! What will the reader say? Will they like it? Will they give me an honest assessment?
For a long time, I was a non-sharer when it came to my writing. I began writing poetry at an early age and, by high school, I started to fill spiral notebooks with poems. I would tell everyone I wrote poetry but I refused to share a single word. Like most writers, I knew the two F words were dangling in front of me whenever anyone asked to read my work. But, that all changed in early 1987.
I was a senior in high school and my Uncle Robert was battling aggressive cancer. He asked me, “How’s school going?”
I told him, “It’s boring, but I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately.”
Then, he followed up with the terrifying part. “Can I read some of what you’ve written?”
I said, “Sure.”
Not sure where that came from, but I was close to my uncle and, deep down inside, I was excited to hear what he’d have to say. So, I gave my Aunt Laura (his wife) my two notebooks, which had poetry, short stories, ideas, and scribbles for her to give to him.
Well, his health took a turn for the worse so my aunt ended up reading a bulk of the poems to him. When she returned my notebooks, she told me my uncle said they were “very good” and that I had “talent.” Now, perhaps he was sugar-coating his opinion of my writing (which I doubt) but, to a seventeen-year-old, this was priceless.
Sadly, he succumbed to his cancer three days later. I still have these notebooks (dated 1984-87). They’ve been with me to California, across the country three times, came with me for two years in Europe, got soaked in a flood, and now travel with me and my wife stowed under our RV. I’ve kept these notebooks close to me not only because it’s my writing, but more so because my uncle, with my aunt’s help, was the first ever to read them.
All of this turned me into a sharer. Now I’ll ask anyone I meet if they’d be interested in reading my work. The worst-case scenario is they’ll say no.
This is a cold, hard fact. If you’re a writer, you need feedback. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you’re too close to your story or topic to see what’s working or what’s not. Remember, friends and family won’t always shoot straight when it comes to offering feedback so you may need to take what they say with an open mind. Sometimes, sharing is about more than just feedback.
Of course, getting feedback makes you a good writer. And, good writers make more money. Considering “sharing” an early part of your marketing endeavors.
My poetry will always be connected to my Uncle Robert and I’d like to think some of my writing is always with him.
Write, share, and listen to the feedback!
T.M. Jacobs, a native to the shoreline area of Connecticut, now resides in various locations along the east coast with his fiancé while traveling and working from their RV motorhome. He has published nine books, and has had over 400 articles published in various newspapers and magazines. T.M. also teaches classes on writing and publishing, and currently is the owner of Jacobs Writing Consultants. He is the founder and former editor for Patriots of the American Revolution magazine and has been a freelance writer for over 30 years. His book, The 1864 Diary of Civil War Union Soldier Sergeant Samuel E. Grosvenor: A first-hand account of the horrors at Andersonville Prison is a biography of Grosvenor who kept a small diary while in the Andersonville Prison. This title was featured on C-SPAN2 TV.
You can contact T.M. at the following links:
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