You know that feeling you have, when you’ve finished a story – be it still in first draft or finely tuned – you like it (most likely, LOVE it) and you’re desperate for positive feedback. Panting for someone to say “this is brilliant!”. I know I’m not the only writer who thinks this, so don’t play coy with me.
What do you do when this happens? Most of us have one or a group of beta readers who are experienced enough to find the flaws and the gems alike, offering suggestions on how and where to improve or even just to say “I like this – nicely done.” Sometimes though, in my case I have to admit, we do -
WHAT SHOULD NEVER BE DONE.
We corner our spouse as he/she walks through the room en route to another part of their Sunday. Our face lights up as we take their hand, ignoring the look of bewilderment on their face. We say those forbidden words;
“Babe – can you read my story?”
My partner has developed a standard reaction to this question (which is admitting that I’ve in fact asked him this way too many times). His face goes pale, he shakes his head in that “you’re not seriously asking me to get in that shark infested water are you?” manner and his hands go up in automatic defence mode.
You would think that this reaction alone would ward me off my intended course of action. But no. I persist. Every time.
“I know it’s not your thing, but I just really want someone to read it.”
By this stage he’s backing up against the kitchen cupboard and feigning a sudden interest in the dirty dishes. Now, don’t get me wrong, my hubby loves that I write. He supports me and sometimes even likes what I pen – but not always. And this is fine. I certainly don’t like everything he reads, so it stands to reason that he probably wont like everything that I write. But even knowing this – I still pursue him like a cougar lusting for the kill. After several versions of; “Please? Puh-leeeeease? Pretty please?” I finally have him where I want him. Trapped in front of the laptop.
Here’s how it goes from there:
Hubby: “I don’t get it.”
Me: “Which bit? You haven’t even scrolled down yet.”
Hubby: “Exactly! I don’t get it.”
Me: “I don’t understand what you mean by ‘I don’t get it’. Isn’t it obvious?”
Hubby: “Maybe to you…”
Me: “Okay, okay, just keep reading. It’s not meant to be obvious anyway” (mental note to self – nice one, Laura! Managed to keep it subtle. Very crafty.)
Hubby: “What do you mean here? Is this word necessary?”
Me (reading ahead over his shoulder): “Huh? Which word?”
Hubby: “That one. What does that even mean?”
Me: “Since when are you an editor? Keep reading! I don’t need suggestions on words, I just want to know what you think generally.”
Hubby: “Babe, this really isn’t—”
Me: “Come on, just a little more. It’s only 1500 words!”
Hubby (under his breath): “Yay”
And so on and so forth. Now. What on earth, did I think I was doing? In hindsight (because at the time, the experience only served to confirm to me that a) what I’d written was pretty ok, and b) hubby just wasn’t in the mood), I realise that I was subjecting him to the literary equivalent of;
“Does my bum look fat in this?”
How is that fair? Not just on him, but on me? I mused over this very incident with a good friend of mine and we both laughed about it, but at the time I should have known better. It’s one of the cardinal rules of writing; “Thou shalt not ask the opinion of a loved one.” But it’s kind of hard to not seek feedback from these people, because let’s face it, we want our husband’s, parents and friends to love what we write. It’s the ultimate validation! The ultimate forced validation…
Sure they may genuinely love what you write, but chances are they can’t be objective. And if you’re lucky (or unlucky?) enough to have someone who will be brutally honest with you without fear of mortally wounding your ego, how are you really going to take that critique on board without mentally condemning that person to the fiery pits of hell forever? You’d be a stronger person than I, that’s for sure.
So the lesson I’ve *finally* learnt, is not to force my work on hubby. I know that he’s not into the genre I write in, and has never been a fan of the short story form. What I do know (and would do well to remember) is that he supports me and from now on, I’m going to be happy with that.
That’s his way of saying “I love your writing no matter what shape it is.”