Last week on Tips-y Tuesday we looked at how to schedule a hot date… with writing. This week I’d like to talk about something that I and many other writers dread doing: sharing our work with others.
I was inspired to write about this after reading a recent blog post at Operation Awesome. It was an interview with Brandon Ho, a screenwriter, where he talked about his journey going from “script to screen.” You can read the full post here.
There’s a lot to learn from Brandon’s words, but one part I really liked was this that he had to say about sharing your work:
“It’s hard to share my writing with others and hear them say it doesn’t work. But an amazing thing happens when you show it to someone else and put your personal guards down. You get to see how someone experiences what you made through their eyes.”
I think that’s a really beautiful way of expressing something that we all usually either take for granted or outright fear: the opinions of others.
When we pour our heart and souls into writing something, and then we show it to someone else, we want nothing more than for them to leap for joy and say what an incredible piece of art it is. But the amount of times that has actually happened in the history of humankind if approximately… zero.
I ran a writing group for several years, and there wasn’t a single time that a member shared a story to the universal delight of everyone else. There was always at least one person who was confused/had suggestions for changes/hated it, and usually those people were in the majority.
And for good reason. When we write something, it’s coming from inside our heads and onto the paper. Something that is so vivid in our own minds can become bland when our own brain isn’t there to fill in all the missing details.
Writing is like trying to convey a dream you had to another person, and honestly when was the last time you were seriously interested in listening to someone else’s dream?
But what Brandon’s quote gets at is the fact that sometimes it doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t see what you want them to see in your writing. Sometimes they see things that you didn’t intend. They come into it with their own brain, their own experiences, and can interpret it a completely different way.
One of the best parts of writing is when you create something that someone else makes their own. Whether by latching on to a side character that you threw in at the last second, or by coming up with completely different themes than you intended, or when they make predictions for what will happen that are wildly off track.
When that happens, it shows that they’re going beyond just “liking” what you wrote; they were sucked in enough to “care” about what you wrote.
Getting someone to care about something is pretty much the greatest accomplishment anyone can have. Unfortunately we have to do the scary sharing to get it, but thinking about sharing as “I wonder how their brain will interpret this” instead of “I hope their brain interprets it this one certain way!” might make it a little easier.