It’s probably not surprising that, as a hobby writer of fiction, I’m a liar. My best work happens when I successfully take an essential truth and warp it with artful lies. But I don’t want to talk about fiction as lie. I want to tell you about lies I’ve told about my fiction.
I did a lot of lying growing up. I don’t mean the kind of lie where you tell your parents about going to Suzie’s to study when you are really going to a party— I mean the kind where I would tell my mom I needed five dollars for school supplies then take the five dollars and buy a blank book to write in. Now, if you’ve read things I’ve written about my mother in earlier WanderLit posts, you know she would have gladly given me five dollars for a journal I had been honest with her. But she was not as introverted as me and maybe a week later (probably at dinner in front of my little sister) she might expose me and ask me how the writing was coming. This could lead to all kinds of intrusive questions she might feel entitled to the answers of. So I lied.
Occasionally, my mother would catch me in one of these lies and be flummoxed as to why on earth I would lie about something that “didn’t matter.” To me this was absolute proof that my lies were justified; she didn’t get why it mattered to me. She didn’t understand.
Those few times I told the truth about writing as a teenager, I became a target. Schoolmates would demand I produce my scribblings for their judgement. Thus bullies and meanies (who had never read anything beyond the Little House series) suddenly became renowned literary critics where my work was concerned. So I lied. I was a closet writer. I filled dozens of journals and destroyed them as quickly as I filled them.
Now I am much more open about my writing but not completely. To this day, I don’t save my notes, journals or drafts, only my manuscripts. The process of struggling toward that manuscript is still a private journey for me. I’m not above the occasional evasion or ambiguous statement to deter would-be readers or critics from sampling a work in progress.
If you ask me “what are you working on?” I’ll more often than not give an ambiguous answer to avoid letting you in to explore ideas with me. If you ask “can I read it?” I make evasive excuses. Not because I’m unethical, but because you don’t seem to understand the intimacy of the thing you are asking. When it’s ready… when I’m ready… I invite readers.
“And if your friends make fun of you for chasing your dream, remember—just lie.”
― Kathryn Stockett, THE HELP
How about you? Do you share your writing in process or do you unveil it only when it’s finished?
Read ~ Write ~ Wander
~AngieAdd a comment