Which of these excuses have you heard or used yourself?
“Oh, I can’t share my real self with my readers. They might not like who I am.”
“Oh, I can’t share anything with my writers’ group. They’re all so far ahead of me. I’d be embarrassed for them to see what I’ve written.”
“Oh, I can’t share anything with another writer. You can’t trust anyone not to steal your ideas. I have to protect my writing until someone offers me a lot of money for it.”
I’m not listening. Lalalalalala….
Imagine a world in which no one shared anything they saw, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. Imagine that everyone hid every emotion behind a blank mask. It would be a bit like the days of the cave man. Except you couldn’t even grunt at the guy in the next cave, because that might be sharing your attitude with him. You’d soon learn that a swiftly applied club over the head was something to be avoided, but you wouldn’t know why it happened. You’d never learn that Next-Door Guy didn’t appreciate you filching a piece of dinosaur meat from his cookfire. And you’d never be able to ask nicely for a small taste – well, because no one shares, remember?
Thankfully, the world I know doesn’t operate like that. Most people nowadays are more than willing to share every detail on every label on every can they pick up as they make their way through the grocery store after work. About which we’ve seen or heard 487 Tweets, Likes, Dislikes, whatevers, throughout the day. All thanks to modern technology. Not.
That’s not the kind of sharing I want you to consider. I propose that you spend some time today thinking about the following ways you, as a writer, can share with your world.
Share how you are really feeling on your blog today.
No one has a whole life full of perfect days, so why do we pretend? If you spent all night holding your daughter’s hair out of her face while she threw up, and you’re exhausted and angry because you told her not to eat all that candy… there’s a lot of people out there who will know exactly what you’re going through. They’ll be nodding their heads, saying, “Girl, they just don’t listen do they?”
If you’re always perfect, and everything you do is perfect, your readers will be intimidated. This time they’ll be shaking their heads, “Wow, I’m such a failure. Just reading about your perfect life makes me feel miserable every time I look up and see the toilet paper the dog ripped to shreds and dragged through the whole house. I don’t need to feel worse than I already do.” And they’ll be gone – looking for someone they can identify with.
So share something meaningful and important to you. Let your readers see what you have in common. Allow them discover things that you appreciate that perhaps they’ve never experienced. Leave them wondering how you could be reading their minds every time you post to your blog. They’ll be back to share their loyalty with you.
Share your latest writing with your writers’ group.
First of all, you’d be surprised at how many of the other members have the same insecurities about the quality or value of their writing. Be the brave soul who volunteers to read five pages of your new chapter. Shake the dust loose from those papers and read with the same feeling with which you wrote your scene. Be enthusiastic about what you’re working on. And be enthusiastic about what your fellow writers are doing.
You don’t have to love the genre in which each person writes, but find something to praise when they share their hard work. Couch any suggestions in a real intent to help, not criticize.
Now, share a tip you found on developing characters. Or that new call for submissions you know they haven’t heard about. Loan your writing reference books to your writer friends. Share what you learned at the writers’ conference you attended.
Celebrate when someone in your group sells an article, finds an agent, or ships their novel to their editor. Be the catalyst for enthusiasm, accountability, and growth in your group. If you share willingly and consistently, you and every member of the group will grow as writers.
Share your ideas and goals with your fellow writers.
Really. No one is waiting with bated breath to steal your story about Aunt Edna’s roses. They’re not even hanging around to steal your four-thousand-page novel about aliens battling Wall Street brokers for control of the planet’s financial treasures.
They’re way too busy themselves, writing their alternate universe romances, their how-to-retire and live cheaply in an abandoned coal mine self-help books, and their healthy-living-through-potato-peel-slushies recipe books.
“But,” you complain, “there was that story I was thinking about writing after I saw Aunt Gertrude’s third daughter ditch her fiancé at the altar. Then I went to the bookstore a year later, and there it was. The author must have heard I was planning to write my book, and wantonly stole my idea. It’s just not safe to share anything with anyone.”
Nuh-uh! The universe, the cosmos is filled to overflowing right this minute with every idea anyone has ever thought, every microscopic iota of a notion that anyone could come up with in the past, present, or in the future. Those ideas and notions are floating around in stealth mode seeking active brains that will suck those ideas up and do something amazing with them. Any one of those ideas or notions could be so indecisive about which brain is best for his wonderfulness, that it will copy itself on the cosmos’ Idea and Notion Duplicator Machine, and zip right into multiple brains. At the same time. Yes, you heard me. It is entirely possible for more than one brain in the universe to be contemplating the same idea or notion in any Yoctosecond of time.
And the most beautiful thing about what happens when one idea zips into more than one brain? That idea is rebirthed into as many unique stories as the brains it chooses to reside in. How wonderful is that?
Sometimes when you share your idea with another writer, the particular ideas and notions in his mind urge him to share ideas and notions that he doesn’t need right then. But it could turn out to be the very idea you need to get your hero out of the trunk of his Aston Martin before it plummets over a cliff in Monaco. You see, ideas and notions love to play together. It’s up to you to help them do that. Because when they play together, that’s when little baby ideas are born.
So dispense with your worries about losing your story to another writer. The only way… let me be clear on this… The. Only. Way. … to lose your idea is to dilly dally around and do nothing with it, until that idea despairs of you ever doing anything amazing… and disappears back into the cosmos.
Next time you hear someone, even yourself, mouth those tired excuses we started with, you’ll be the one in the group who’s willing and able to share all the reasons why writers sharing are writers growing.
Do you regularly share with fellow writers, or are you finding this a new experience? Share with us… share with us… All the ideas in the universe are just waiting to see which active brains leave comments telling how they plan to share today.