The Insecure Writers’ Group is an organization of writers offering support and encouragement to all those taking on the challenges of writing. Every month they sponsor a blog hop where writers can blog about a topic related to overcoming obstacles and exploring various aspects of the writing journey. If you’d like to participate in a future hop you can join here.
This month the question is as follows:
May 5 question – Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?
I find this question really really interesting and it was actually an eye opening experience writing on this topic. The answer is definitely yes, it has happened to me many times. There are two times that stand out to me though, and for very different reasons. This post is called the tale of two stories because, well it is an account of two separate occasions where my writing received very different receptions and what that meant for me in the bigger picture.
The first thing that I allowed someone (besides a teacher) to read was a scene I wrote that was deeply personal to me. It was sad and it was painful, and I thought at the time there would be really no other way to interpret that. Well I was wrong. This individual thought it was funny. And not like a nervous funny, like they actually laughed as though they had just heard a hilarious joke and then dismissed me without any more feedback. Umm. Ok. Wow. Not what I expected and yep, I was pretty surprised. I understand that everyone has their own opinion and I respect that, but this individual knew me well, and knew that this subject was something difficult for me to write about. This reader laughed and then refused to give me any more feedback. That was the end of that. I’m sad to say that after this I put my writing away for a couple of years, it really stuck with me in a bad way. I shouldn’t have let it derail me, but I did.
The next story has a happier ending. Totally different person a few years later. I finally allowed them to read the first draft of my book, not only because I really needed the feedback, but because I genuinely wanted to share it with them. And I was really surprised by the parts of the book and the characters that they enjoyed the most. They wanted to hear more, but not about the characters or the storylines that I found the most interesting. They had their own perspective on what was riveting, and it was constructive to see my writing through a different lens, realizing that everyone gravitates towards something different about a story based on their own personal experiences and interests. I really responded well to this, not because they thought everything about the book was great (they didn’t) but because they took the time to read and interpret my writing thoughtfully and constructively. I appreciated it.
As far as the implications of all of this, I guess it’s fairly simple. The first person ended up being overall not a very nice person or friend. We no longer speak, and it has been a relief. The negativity towards my writing extended to every other aspect of life, and at the end of the day became very toxic. The second person is very much still around, still offering me feedback (and no, it’s not all positive) but it is all constructive. And probably not surprisingly, this person’s respect of my work extends to every other facet of life. That one is definitely a keeper 🙂
I’m not saying that everyone close to you who you allow to read your work has to love it. Heck they don’t even have to like it and they’re even allowed to dislike it and to tell you that they dislike it. What I am saying though is that mocking and ripping out an idea at the roots just to tear down the self-esteem of someone you’re supposed to care for is not allowed. Honestly with friends like that, who needs an enemy?
I appreciate how writing gave me an insight into the relationships in my life. It’s a deeply personal endeavor, and it’s hard enough without cruelty from those close to you. Be kind, and surround yourself with those who will treat you and the work you put your soul into with respect and kindness as well. Even if they don’t love everything you write.