There are two types of fear when it comes to sharing your work. One comes before the typing, and one comes before sharing. Both are natural, normal and most importantly, beatable. Here are some things that you should know about sharing your work.
Type Number One — The Before
Most writers experience some sort of anxiety before writing related to who might see it and what those people might think. The good news is that you can get over this fear. The bad news is that it mostly involves practising. This means that you have to start writing to stop worrying about what potential readers may think.
I had this fear when I first started my writing journey. To combat it, I challenged myself to publish something every day for 30 days. This helped me build a writing habit and forced me to publish work that perhaps wasn’t completely ready yet. Do you know what happened? Nothing, the world didn’t end. One very nice person sent me a private message pointing out a typo. That was it.
Your readers aren’t going to want to tear your work apart. In fact, if they like what you have to say, many readers will ignore small errors in favour of the greater message. If they aren’t willing to do that, they will click away. If you can rationalise that, you can get started with your writing.
Some other ways that you can start writing is by recognising that you are working on your first draft. Now, no one is going to see your first draft but you. So it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. In fact, it’s unlikely to be perfect. That’s what editing and proofreading are for, so you don’t need to worry about the state of your work. You’re the only one that’s going to see it anyway.
Now, some of my more experienced writers may still be struggling with this issue. I find that I most often experience this kind of anxiety when I’m working on a piece that I know will be judged. This usually happens if I’m beginning a competition piece or if I’ve already started making publishing plans.
In times like these, I usually begin by writing on something unrelated.
I find that warming up my writing muscles allows me to move into the more difficult piece of work easily. So I will begin my writing by exploring my thoughts on the page, when I’m in a good flow, I will begin to write a stream of consciousness exercise related to the topic that I want to write on. After a bit of time working on the topic, I feel comfortable enough to start working on what I actually want to talk about.
When you feel as though you can’t write, it usually has to do with the subject matter. Either you feel like your ability isn’t as high as the piece requires, or you’re simply unsure about where to begin. Take a step back and explore the emotions surrounding them. If they are unrealistic, like, ‘what if someone thinks it’s bad?’, go back and reassure yourself that no one will see your first draft. If it’s not knowing how to start, begin somewhere else and work your way towards the topic.
Don’t be afraid of beginning. Don’t sell yourself short. Remember that your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect or even good. Editing can fix a multitude of sins.
Type Number Two
So you’ve done the hard work and finished your manuscript. It’s polished and ready to be shared with the world… or at least a few select readers. It can be intimidating to share your work, especially because people will form opinions on it.
Once you have done the hard work of writing, you are not responsible for how people will interpret your writing.
I want to say that right off of the bat.
Once you have done your job and written the piece, it is no longer up to you to control how that piece is received. That can be scary for those of us that put a lot of meaning into our work.
I would encourage you to let your story go. It will mean different things to different people, but that’s okay. You got what you needed to out of your work as you were writing it. Someone else will get what they need out of it too. Sometimes those two things will be the same, and sometimes they may be different.
I offer writing advice on here. A big part of letting my work go is knowing that sometimes my articles will help a person know what not to do.
If you’ve spent a large amount of time reading this article and saying ‘that would never work for me.’, then I’ve saved you time. You know which method not to try.
Now that being said, I’d love for my advice to be perfect for every reader, but that simply isn’t an achievable goal. I have no control over that. I am likely to get comments that say, ‘This doesn’t work for me.’, and that’s fine too. It’s not up to me to change their minds. It’s not up to me to change the way that they understand my work.
There is a big Medium writing competition going on now, and I’ve written a personal essay for each of the prompts. I sent those off to my critique group today, knowing that they will get torn apart.
Was that easy? No.
Am I scared that they won’t understand my work? Yes.
Does that bother me? No.
If they don’t understand my work, then I haven’t done my job as a writer. I know that I’ve written the pieces to the best of my ability, and if they come back with a bunch of edits for clarification, then that is actually a good thing. I trust the people that I work with to improve my writing.
A big part of feeling comfortable with letting go of your work is finding a group that you trust to read it. You can find this in the form of a critique partner or a writing group. If you’re courageous, you can post it on a writing forum for strangers to read. I prefer to keep it to my group of writing friends that I’ve made over the years. Simply because I know how much I value their opinions, it makes accepting changes to my work easier.
So, share your finished work with people that you trust first.
Then know that you’ve done the best that you can and release it into the world.
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!