Feeling vulnerable when sharing my fiction writing
I've changed a lot when it comes to writing my blog over the past few years. I no longer feel I have to climb underneath the table once I press publish on my words. In fact, I'm proactively going out there to find readers, to bring them back to read my blog. Come on, I urge, come and read my blog posts.
It's a massive change in mindset and a huge leap forward for me.
But the words I write on this blog and on my Instagram captions, another place where I've allowed myself to relax about my writing, have one thing in common. They're all non-fiction. Whether I'm writing about the books I've enjoyed or purchased, whether I'm writing about food and recipes, or whether I'm crafting a piece of narrative non-fiction about my chickens and ducks or the seasons - they're all coming from a place of fact. From real life.
I don't have this same feeling for the novel I'm writing. Because the words I'm writing in my novel are fiction. And oh! I feel so incredibly vulnerable about my fiction. I've felt vulnerable about it since I started writing some fourteen or fifteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child.
I've probably shown less than a handful of people my novel: my husband, my agent (at the time) and a mentor on a writing retreat. Each of these people gave me helpful constructive criticism.
That's not including the writing evening class I went to about a decade ago. When I nervously read out my short story to the class and someone said: 'I don't get it'. The blank faces from the rest of the room suggested they all felt the same. (I can laugh about that now but was mortified at the time.)
Since sharing with my agent, my mentor and with that writing class my writing has evolved. Writing this blog and my Instagram captions has made me more aware of the words I use and what I'm trying to create with my sentences and paragraphs.
I feel the vulnerability comes from the fact that, with fiction I haven't a clue what I'm doing. I come across words such as 'character arc' or 'conflict' or 'protagonist and antagonist' and they floor me. I feel there are rules that must be followed and I don't know or understand what the rules are. I have tried reading books about writing but they end up confusing the hell out of me. Making me feel more of a fraud and stopping me from tapping the words out on my laptop.
All of this means I haven't written anything in my novel for over six months - actually it may be a lot longer. After chatting with a friend a few weeks ago, who sensibly told me to ignore all the confusing rules and words and around the same time I read this article by The Gentle Creative called 'the real reason why you haven't started your creative project' I decided to have another go.
Every time I open the document of my novel-in-progress I have to push through this fear, this vulnerability, this voice telling me I'm not good enough and that I haven't a clue what I'm doing. But I'm carrying on, inch by inch, and am determined to get all the way to the end.
In a fit of braveness (or stupidity) I'm going to share the first few paragraphs from my novel. This is partially for me and partially to show the students on my creative blogging e-course that everyone who writes feels vulnerable about sharing.
These few paragraphs have been edited a number of times and probably need even more but I'm moving forward and am now onto editing chapter two.
DRAFT SEVEN (!)
It was three o ‘clock on a hot summers day in Central London. Inside the red brick building housing Gibston & Stack, a West End law firm, the air was thick with heat. Windows were open, allowing fumes from the belching traffic to cut through the stillness of the air and to deftly climb uninvited through the sash windows.
There was no escape, in the entire building, from the whirr of fans. Paper, weighed down by heavy objects, flickered rhythmically in the breeze – breaking the silence. Every now and again someone would sigh as the heat broke their concentration - then came the glug of the water cooler as yet another beaker of cool liquid was consumed.
Eve was in her office, the window shut against the smell of the traffic as it was making her nauseous, but the fan was on full and rotating backwards and forwards across her desk. She was sitting as close to the desk as her large belly would allow, the keyboard positioned right at the edge; her arms could only just comfortably type.
Finally she pushed herself away from her desk allowing herself a small smile of achievement. After months of meetings, phone calls, contracts and billable hours she was finally done. The biggest deal of her career, worth eye-watering sums of money, was complete. Well, at least for now. This corporate deal, for a company called Megatron, had consumed Eve for longer than the baby growing inside her.
And that's it. That's all my vulnerability will allow me to share! (P.s I might be hiding under the kitchen table...)
So what about you? Do you feel vulnerable whenever you write and publish something on your blog or Instagram or elsewhere? Does it stop you from moving forward and following your dreams? Or have you developed a method for dealing with it? I'd really love to hear your experiences.