Should we separate ourselves from our art?

I finished my newest manuscript back in May, and I didn’t read it again at all.

Until now.

Just yesterday, I finished my first read-through. And I really liked it. Sure, it needs A LOT of work. There’s a bunch of stuff that is either cringe or a bit awkward, some bits need more drama or emotion or humour. It’s not perfect.

But what is, really?

It made me think, though, of this scene in New Girl, which I started bingeing recently, where Nick finishes a draft of his zombie romance novel (I know, what a concept lol), and he gives it to Winston to read.

The idea gave me mad anxiety, and it wasn’t even my draft, and it was also in a comedy show where everything is extremely silly and nothing is serious at all. But the idea of sharing a draft – a FIRST draft at that – just made my stomach fill with butterflies. I was hoarding a whole zoo in there.

Anyway, so Winston reads the draft and the episode ends with him saying how horrible it is, and then he reads out the draft to everyone, and everyone laughs together, and Nick says, “this might be humiliating.”

Watch here.

The whole thing is meant to be funny. We’re supposed to laugh at poor Nick and his terrible manuscript. And it works. I did laugh. It’s a funny show.

But I still couldn’t help but think of myself in a similar situation.

How would I react, if I were in some alternate universe where I actually shared my first drafts? How would I react if my friend told me it was the worst thing they’d ever read?

Uhhhhhhhhh.

Probably not well.

Which makes me wonder – am I taking this writing thing too seriously? Should I be more like Nick and just roll with it? If someone says it’s terrible, just say ‘ah, yes, it’s not perfect, but I finished it!”?

Maybe I’m too attached to my stories. We don’t have to write perfect stories right?

It reminds me of something YouTuber Jack Edwards said. He published a book recently, as YouTubers do, and he said that someone told him his book wasn’t exactly high literature. His response was, “Yeah, it’s not claiming to be. Not every book has to change the world or find its way into the literary cannon. It can just be a book that has a purpose, or can be used just for escapism or joy or pleasure. It’s a weird way to value things – like ‘is this going to change the planet that we live on?'”

That is very wise.

A book doesn’t have to be the next War & Peace or Lord of the Rings. It can just be a book that is fun and silly and doesn’t really change anything or anyone, but they have fun while they’re reading it.

I think I need to readjust my views. Because I’ve wanted to publish books since I was 7, so it feels like this really enormous and very important goal and dream of mine, and if I ever do publish something, it has to be this incredible piece of art that is a culmination of the 20 years I’ve been working toward it. Like all my family and friends that have been hearing me go on about wanting to publish books and finishing different manuscripts are going to expect something that will change the world as we know it, and movies will be made, and I’ll be heralded as the next J. K. (except without the controversy).

*fun fact: at my grade five graduation, I actually got the ‘next J. K. Rowling’ award*

But maybe it doesn’t matter if my work is a bit silly, or the characters make dumb decisions, or there are a hundred negative things you can say about it. Maybe what really matters is what I think of it.

Wow. How… revolutionary.

But I keep going back to that New Girl scene, and putting myself in Nick’s place, hearing my friends read my manuscript aloud as they laugh at different parts of it. I don’t think I’d survive it. Would you? Would anyone? Was New Girl wrong about that? Is it normal for people to not care if their friends laugh at their manuscript? I don’t know.

I do know that I should probably ease up a little on the anxiety of sharing my work. What’s the point of writing it if you’re never going to let anybody read it? At the moment, a beta-reader is reading through my other manuscript, and I’m a little on edge, waiting for the worst, even though all her comments so far have been so positive, like the beta-reader before her.

But I’ve just worked so hard on these manuscripts, spent hours planning and writing and tweaking and editing. It’s hard to detach myself, to see it as just a book and not a piece of my soul.

How do you feel about sharing your work? Do you share first drafts or second drafts or third? What tips do you have for sharing work and not taking criticism too harshly?

It’s definitely something I need to work on. Soon.

If ever I want my 20 year dream to become actualised.

Fingers crossed.

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