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I love, Love, LOVE talking about my writing. After all, how many topics are there in which you are an unquestioned expert? Engaging in a long dialogue about past short stories or the current novel is a real pleasure, and I have yet to experience an occasion where I’ve grown tired of the exercise.
But, I never start that conversation. Never.
Maybe I’m too polite. Maybe I won’t get to the next stage because I’m not pushy. But I’ve taken the vow to not be that guy. Call it imposter’s syndrome or a lack of confidence, but I think of it more as a way of maintaining relationships and retaining privileges for an invite to the next birthday party or wedding.
Here are my rules to avoid being the writer friends and family avoid:
1 The polite writer must not be the first to mention writing. This rule is made easier by never asking about other people’s jobs. Most people’s work is boring. Travel, hobbies, dogs, baseball, rum, etc. are way more fun to discuss anyway.
2 Even if we’ve talked writing before, the polite writer cannot assume friends and family will want a repeat performance. If you’re kind enough to ask how the writing is going, I’ll give an update, “about half way through the sci-fi novel I’ve been working on” or “about to kill off a troupe of performers for singing the wrong song.” The end.
3 The most important rule of the polite writer, do NOT put friends or family on the spot by asking for any kind of feedback. It’s enough that someone was kind enough to purchase the book, or kind enough to tell you they were going to purchase the book. (Yes, even a small encouraging fib is a kindness.) Don’t get me wrong, I can take feedback. I actually enjoy it as long as it’s thoughtful and not heart-stompingly cruel.
Bottom line, cornering a loved one (who may not be a fiction or novel reader or experienced in the writer’s genre) into a snap appraisal of something you spent years working on isn’t fair to them or the writer.
3a Asking face-to-face about what someone thought is not the same as asking them to leave a review on a website. I always ask anyone who has purchased or read the book to leave a review. “Two words and some stars is all you have to do. It makes a huge difference.”
There you have it. If you’ve been avoiding me out of fear of talking about my writing, I hope you are relieved. If you’ve been avoiding me for other reasons, I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain myself. I’m probably sorry for whatever I did. Probably.