It's Okay to Say No
I don't mind telling people that I write. I don't even mind telling them what I write. I'm becoming okay with telling them briefly what my story is about. However, there is one question that never fails to make me panic.
Can I read it?
Internally, I'm screaming. NO! No you can't read it! Why would I let you read it? This is my story, my baby, one of the things I am most proud of! Why would I hand it over?
Externally, I laugh a little and say "maybe when it's published" then I get the heck out of that conversation. That's not hard when it's a coworker or a classmate or someone else you don't have a deep relationship with. They won't be offended and not letting them read your writing will have basically no impact on how you interact with them.
But what about when your best friend asks?
Or your significant other?
Or your siblings?
Or your parents?
Is it still okay to say no to them? After all, they might be offended if you say no. You have to see them more often, so it might be awkward if you're not letting them be part of such a huge aspect of your life.
But here's the thing, no matter how much you trust that person and no matter how nice they'll be, you're letting someone who (likely) doesn't know anything about writing read an early draft of something you treasure. Even if they're nice in their feedback, it can still hurt.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I found a draft of a novel I never finished. I started it in middle school and was so excited that I let a friend read the first chapter. This friend told me it was something they'd read if they were bored. That's a direct quote.
They didn't mean anything by that. This person wasn't much of a reader and only read when they were bored. But it still stung. Was my story that bad? Was it boring? Was I a terrible writer?
I didn't write anything else in that story. Not a single word. I don't know what potential that story held (even if it was just practice) because I let someone read it and it killed my excitement.
Here's my advice: if it's an unfinished first draft, don't give it to your best friend. Or your siblings, parents, or significant other. If you need feedback, get a writing buddy. Someone who knows what they're talking about. First drafts are vulnerable. A single piece of bad advice can kill them. One poorly phrased comment can condemn them to a desk drawer.
So only give them to someone who's writing knowledge you trust. Someone who will encourage you to keep writing and give advice that grows the story and your ideas for it instead of locking you into a box of what they think should happen.
But what if it's not a first draft? What if it's polished and you've gotten feedback and you're proud of it? What if you still want to say no when your friends and family ask to read it?
Say no. Trust your gut. This is your story. It's precious to you. If you're not ready to show your parents or your siblings or your significant other or your best friend, don't.
You'll know when you're ready to show them. I can't tell you when that will be. It might be as soon as the first draft is done. It might be after the fifth draft. Or after you sign a publishing contract. Or you might be ready only when you can hand them the hard, published copy of the story.
All of those are okay. It's your story. You can choose when you let people read it. You can choose to say no when they ask. It doesn't make you selfish and it doesn't mean you don't trust them. It means you know how fragile that piece of art is. You know the more people you let touch it, the more likely it is to crumble.
So don't feel guilty. If they get mad or frustrated, that means they aren't respecting your decision and probably don't understand how important that decision is. They don't understand what a big deal it is, or how vulnerable you'll be while they have it.
Your writing is not only yours, it's part of you. Don't hand it over because you feel guilty. It's okay to say no.
Who have you said no to? Have you ever regretted letting someone read your writing?