Some people are totally comfortable having their friends and relatives read their writing. I envy those people big-time. Personally, it scares me every time I hand over a piece of my writing to someone I know well. To the point where I wrote two entire novels before I told my family I was even interested in writing.
Now, I can give my writing to my CPs, and they’ll tear it to pieces. I’m fine with this. I actually enjoy this process most of the time. But when it comes to friends and family? Nope. I always feel like I’m going to throw up when I hand over a piece of my writing.
I know I’m not alone when it comes to this particular fear, so I thought I’d write a post about how I personally deal with it.
1. I always explain that the opinions in my writing don’t always reflect my personal opinions.
My family is Catholic. I am Atheist. This is the main reason I waited so long to tell any of them about my writing. I have characters in my writing who not only use magic, but who believe magic is a powerful healing tool. I’m sure most people know how Catholics usually respond to books with magic–when I was young, I was forbidden to read Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, Harry Potter, and many other novels. I have relatives who actually believe J.K. Rowling is a possessed worker of the devil. Basically, in the Catholic Church’s opinion, magic is a terrible and evil thing. In my books, it’s a good thing to have. You can see the conflict right there.
When I first gave my mom one of my novels, I was utterly terrified that my parents were going to make me stop writing, and haul me off to an exorcist. I repeated about twenty-bazillion times that it was a fantasy novel. Yes, a FANTASY novel. As in, I don’t believe anything in it is actually real.
Luckily, no exorcisms followed. My mom actually enjoyed the novel, and she was perfectly okay with my explanation of the magical elements. But had I not taken the time to explain that vital fact–that my characters’ beliefs don’t represent mine–then things probably wouldn’t have gone so smoothly.
2. I tell them there’s no need to finish it or tell me what they think.
Whenever I hand my writing over to someone I know, I always say this. If they enjoy my work, then that’s wonderful, and I’d love to hear their thoughts. But if they find it offensive or terrible or boring, then I don’t expect them to fake a smile and tell me it’s great. This seems to take a lot of pressure off people, and makes the whole experience go smoother.
3. I just say no.
Sometimes, I just have to tell people that they can’t read my writing. Period. No exceptions. If I believe that my writing might harm the relationship I have with them, then I just say no. It’s not worth losing a friend of relative over something as trivial as a piece of writing. And it’s also not worth the nerve-wracking feeling of worrying how that person will judge me. In cases like this, I just tell people no. They might think it’s rude, but I’d rather be considered rude than a worker of the devil, or worse.