“Can I read your book now?” No
“So when can I read your book then?” When it’s finished and published!
This is a post to educate people who may not realise how intimate these questions are. I get asked this every time I say that I’m writing a book. Quite frankly, it’s rude! I don’t mind if another writer asks to read my book to sincerely offer their editing/proofreading skills, but to ask to read a book before it’s finished and for no other reason than selfish curiousity is quite rude. Would you ask someone if you could sniff their dirty underwear? I thought not! Consider it the same level of grotesqueness when asking someone who is working on a story, a painting, a script, a song, a film or any other creative project they are developing and nurturing from their heart, if you can see it before they are finsihed. If they want you to see it, they will ask!
Why is it rude you ask? Firstly, to create something that comes from the heart and/or from the deepest parts of our soul makes us vulnerable. When I first started writing the book, tons of memories, good and bad flooded into the forefront and I wrote whatever was whizzing through my mind. That draft is long gone, the very personal and intimate details that gave me a much needed cathartic experience have been deleted into the ether, never to be read by anyone. I had people ask me to read it at that point, “Hell no!!” was my answer. I was at my most vulnerable and some of the sentences were beautifully structured, coming from my heart, others were raw with pure emotion revealing my ugliest self. It would’ve been like reading my diary. I decide who gets to read that information. Do you ask your friends to read their diary?
Secondly, as I mentioned before, developing a creative project exposes vulnerability. The amount of self doubt I fight off on a daily basis is exhausting. I occasionally go to a writer’s group here in Nicaragua and on two occassions, I read three or four paragraphs of what I have written. Last week I read out the first page of the book and as soon as I finsihed it, said, “Sorry, that’s really shit. It was way worse before I edited it. I clearly still have a lot to work to.” I may have been imagining the disappointment in their faces, but it doesn’t matter because I felt too exposed. The self-doubt told me I was an impostor for trying to create this story with the intention that one day other people will read it. The other writers reassured me we are our own worse critic and that it was a good beginning. The self-doubt repeated, “They’re liars,” over and over again while they gave me constructive and positive feedback. I feel ok being vulnerable with them because they also write and are creators and they have the same processes I do. To expose my vulnerability to outsiders is something I have to work up to. I will be submitting proposals to literary agents, that will be soul destroying enough, I don’t need lay people telling me that it’s shit or that I should change things.
The moral of the story is that every single human on this Earth has the ability to be creative. We all do. It’s just that very few of us are able to tap into it for one reason or another. So all I ask of you is to please, step back and think before you ask to read or look at someone’s creative project. When they are ready, they will reveal. Before they are ready, they are most likely fighting a battle inside their heads that is challenging enough to deal with. Just let that process flow and when we’re ready, we’ll walk down the streets advertising our work.
If you don’t want to sniff my dirty underwear (especially now that I’m in a very hot Nicaragua), please don’t ask to read my book until it’s published. Better yet, if you really want to support me, instead of asking for a free copy, please buy it. Just like all artists, I’m putting all of my blood, sweat tears, ugly parts, beautiful parts and vulnerable parts out for the world to see, the least any creator can ask is to be appreciated.