3 reasons not to discuss new writing (yet)
At the Center, we emphasize sharing and community-building around our writing, but Shawna Ayoub Ainslie wants you to be aware of three reasons it might be best to keep a new writing project to yourself for a bit.
The first pages of a new writing project are often dappled with the dew of optimism. Writing is an adventure. Your heart soars and dips with your characters. Everything is rose-tinted because you’ve had an idea–a beautiful, wonderful idea, one you can’t wait to share with the world.
The first warning I was given as a grad student in my MFA program was to “practice silence.” I found this instruction odd until the professor, Tony Ardizzone, elaborated. He asked us how many times we’ve lost the flow of a story after telling someone about it. I found myself thinking on the question long after that workshop. When I spoke with other writers in the program, it turned out we all shared the experience of abandoning work after telling the details we were excited about to someone else.
Tony assigned us three days of silence as a generative practice. For three days, I walked the world without speaking aloud. A curious thing happened: my creativity blossomed. I will talk about setting up your own practice of silence in another post. Here, I want to elaborate on why it’s sometimes good not to discuss your work-in-progress.
Don’t tell your story before you tell it
We’ve already covered the first reason: Preventing the loss of flow. Talking out the details of our writing saps the creative process. Once you’ve said it out loud the story has already been told. So why write it? Especially when the writing will be a rehash of what you shared.
Now is not the time for feedback
When you share the details of a work in progress out loud, feedback will come at you. Your listener can argue your plot points and characters. I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t experience sharing their work as vulnerability. Just like you wouldn’t take a baby outdoors on a snowy day without dressing them warmly, your story needs a layer of protection in its infancy.
Protect your byline and ideas
Your work is your work. Sharing it before it’s complete gives others the chance to try on your themes. Most writers are ethical and won’t steal a story, but the details of yours may influence what they are writing subconsciously. In essence, don’t plant spoilers.
In the wise words of Gandalf, “Keep it secret. Keep it safe.” Now write, write, write!
Do you talk about your in-progress writing with others? Why or why not? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: How to end your story already! (in 3 steps)
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