The hardest thing to do as a writer is also one of the most fundamental things that we must: share. At some point, a writer must take his or her child and send it out into a world of harsh reviews and cutting critique. Without this step, you might as well paint masterpieces in a cave or cook delicious meals for the trashcan. Art is a social endeavor, and eventually, we need to take that step.
Strangers are easy to share with. We have no connection with them. Their comments can simply be brushed off or dismissed. Their rejection might sting, but it won’t wound. It’s not a thankless endeavor, though. By sharing your work, you open yourself to receive feedback, praise, and advice. I’ve had many readers write to tell me how greatly they enjoyed what I had written, and it always makes my day. Despite not having a deep connection, the thought that even a stranger found joy in something I did warms my heart and ego.
What is far harder is to share one’s writing with friends. Those closest to us, as Schopenhauer so famously observed, hurt us most easily, even without intention. To share our writing with them is to leave ourselves vulnerable, to expose our souls to another, without any guarantee that we won’t be hurt.
And if this is true of any writing, it’s especially true of romance. By its very nature, romance is more intimate than most other genres. Few of my friends know that I write, and even fewer of them have ever actually read one of my stories. On the forum of one of the websites at which I publish my short stories, I asked others whether they had allowed personal friends to actually read their works, and the response was mixed. It was a rare occurrence, and even when it had happened, the other authors were divided between those who regretted their decision and those who had enjoyed the chance to share their creation.
Fortunately, I’ve only had positive experiences, but nevertheless, it’s a harrowing experience. It’s an odd trend that people tend to assume that authors agree with their characters. This can be problematic for romance stories, which may contain romantic and sexual acts that don’t personally excite us, but which we include in the story for other reasons. When I shared one of my stories with a friend, I was afraid that she would judge me because of it, think less of me for what I had written. What if she thought I were a deviant? But luckily, she enjoyed it. Even so, though, it was a vulnerable moment, and hearing her describe the story back to me made me feel as though she had caught me in a moment of intimacy, entirely aware of what sort of activities brought me pleasure. I wasn’t exactly embarrassed, just a little shy, but it was worth it.
It’s a wonderful feeling to share something important to you with the people important to you feels wonderful. That connection between two people is the stuff of which friendships are made. Even if you risk getting hurt, I think it’s worth the warmth and closeness you’ll gain from being able to be more open with your friends and loved ones. So if you write in secret, open up to a friend you can trust, and share your writing with them. I think, in the end, you’ll be glad you did.