Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Bashful Exhibitionist

I wrote a book. I sent it to an agent who read it and offered to represent it. She sent it to a variety of editors who have read it.

No problems, there.

My husband has asked to read this book. My brother has asked to read it. A good friend has asked to read it.

*Kermit-flail of terror*

The thing is, I'm terribly bashful about letting anyone I know read my work. Publishing professionals? Sure. Fellow writers willing to critique? You bet. But loved ones? Eek!

I even squawk and flail at El Husbando when he wanders by the computer while I'm writing. I have this horror of him reading something over my shoulder and laughing (which could totally happen, despite him being a supportive sweetheart. He only reads non-fiction, and jokingly demeans my reading tastes as "dragon books" or even "snakes-with-wings books".)

I know this is weird. On one leg o' the chicken, I want to see my book on store shelves; I want everyone to read it. On the other, I'm leery of letting anyone I care about see it until publishing professionals have deemed it Worthy™. I think I crave the mental safety net of being able to keep it all secret if it turns out I'm not talented enough to be a published writer.

A friend once asked me why I wanted to publish my writing, and I gave an answer that must have sounded mercenary. I said I wanted to get paid. It sounds distasteful, but I think that answer actually represents progress for me.

Why? Because there are three common reasons why a person decides to seek publication:

1) They're unimpressed with the level of adulation they receive from the world and have recognized writing as a way to exhibit their awesomeness, thus facilitating the populace's worship of them.

2) They believe their accomplishments don't count unless other people deem them worthy, i.e. they are not talented until someone else says so.

3) They would like to make a living at writing.

That last option is the only healthy one on the list; the other two stem from self-esteem issues.

I started out in category 2; I think I've (mostly) moved into category 3 now. Being neurotic about anyone I know reading my work is just a vestige of the bad ol' days.

Note those reasons for wanting to be published have nothing to do with wanting to write--you should write because it purges your poisons and animates your fantasies, because it lets you stretch and enjoy your natural talents. You can even write chiefly to please others, but the best reason to write is because you love it.

The best reason to seek publication, however, is because you want to be paid. It isn't a good thing for your ego to be involved.


If you're a writer (or creator of content of any sort other than pure exhibitionism blogging), what category do you fall into, 1, 2, or 3? Why are you trying to be published?

And why do you create at all? Why are you a writer?

I'd love to hear your motivations.


Sarf's Travels. said...

I blog because I want my family and friends to know what I am up to. If you hadn't noticed our family isn't good about communicating day to day stuff. You know like a sister wrote a book and didn't tell anyone in the family about it. :P

I am not sure if I fall in any of your 3 category. I don't want to get paid for blogging.

I am not trying to self validate myself by telling others what I do, though I am guilty of this at times.

And my writing isn't of a level of quality that others would praise as being good.

TBH if it wasn't for the fact that I am here and the family is elsewhere I wouldn't do the blog.

For me writing in a semi public way is just a way to stay in touch with the day to day stuff of family and friends.

Sarf's Travels. said...

But if you can figure out how I could get paid for it, I wouldn't say no to the money. Google has declined to give me any so far.

writtenwyrdd said...

Actually, I can see valid reasons for not showing unpublished material to your family. First, while I am not at the stage of flapping my hands to shoo someone away while I'm writing, I'm not comfortable with someone bothering me, staring at me, or distracting me while I work. But the issue here seems to be that your hubs has a less than supportive attitude towards your fiction genre. So while he may support your writing that attitude makes you uncomfortable with showing him your stuff.

If it were me, I'd say it like it is: that you don't want to hear negative comments about what you write from him, so he can wait until it's published.

I'm sure he doesn't write so he doesn't understand how much of your heart and soul goes into each writing project. If he can't understand this, and how his expected reaction is going to hurt, I'd just say it plain. The old saying about throwing pearls before swine applies. If it is going to cause hurt feelings on your part just be honest and tell him that. Tough cookies if he doesn't like it.

(which is easy for me to say, right? Relationships are difficult to balance with creative efforts sometimes.)

McKoala said...

LOL 1. Adulation. I leave that to The Koala, who wants to see everyone genuflect under her eucalypt.

I do make a living from writing. It's just dull writing. I'd prefer to be having more fun - so if I could make a living from fun writing, I'd be happy. But, would it then be dull writing, because I would feel under pressure to do it? Hmm.

The Koala is pleased with your devotion to wordcount. Move on up to approves.

Sepiru Chris said...

Liebe OxyJen,

Does this mean that I can read the manuscript the next time I am in town? :)


pjd said...

I am so totally a #1. Not because of self esteem issues. I just can't imagine a state of the world where I receive enough adulation. I'm a little like Lucy from Peanuts in that way.

I learned early on that I did not really want comments on my writing from my wife. What I wanted was recognition that I had done something creative. It didn't sink to the level of fishing for compliments, but it did not rise to the level of craving truth. Spouse and family should be firmly educated that they not be allowed to give you any "constructive criticism" unless they are, in fact, in the publishing industry. This is not negotiable.

You ignore this advice at your peril, and I can not be held responsible.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I showed my early work to my family and they were very helpful. I took their publishing advice, however, with a grain of salt.

I guess I fall into categories 2 and 3. I'm getting more and more positive feedback from my published works, so my need for validation is lessening.

Now it's time to make some solid cash money!

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