The Practicing Writer’s Quandary: Discussing Your Work in Progress
Thanks to my day job, which validates time spent scanning The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Web site, I’ve become a fan of the posts at the group “Brainstorm” blog. And I’m a particular fan of Gina Barreca, a professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut. In addition to simply being very engaging and well-written, Barreca’s posts often touch on aspects of writing and/or teaching writing.
Here are the opening paragraphs of a recent post titled “Should You Discuss Your Work in Progress?”:
I recently learned a lesson about a serious need to shut up. I’m 52 years old and my whole life people who have my best interests at heart have told me not to have a big mouth when it comes to announcing my ambitions, wishes, projects, or loves.
I wish I had listened sooner, better, or at all. I wish, particularly, that I had NOT said anything to anybody about the fact that I am editing a collection titled Make Mine a Double: A Celebration of Women and Drink.
Especially if you keep reading that post, you, like me, might start to think about the wisdom of making your own projects known.
For me, the issue materialized not long after I read Barreca’s post. On my next visit to Brian Klems’s Questions and Quandaries blog, I found a post addressing the legality of writing sequels to famous books. Which caught my attention because about three years ago I began musing about a sequel of my own, to a very famous book, indeed.
That project hasn’t gone anywhere (admittedly, my efforts have been far too feeble). But here’s the point: As soon as I considered blogging about the Questions and Quandaries post, which I thought presented a worthwhile topic for Practicing Writing, I couldn’t help thinking about the one from Barreca.
And I wondered just how much to share about my own possible sequel while blogging about the Klems post. Even if I might receive some excellent advice that could jumpstart the project, I just don’t think I can – or should – go public with it.
I’m not talking about sharing the idea with just two or three trusted writer friends. Or even sharing a manuscript excerpt – should one ever be ready! – in a workshop or writing group, although that certainly does require a leap of faith. But I’ll admit that I haven’t always been comfortable mentioning my sequel idea to potential agents (even agents with sterling reputations) who wanted to know what they might eventually expect beyond my story collection. So you can imagine how I might agonize about sharing it more widely.
Like on a blog.
So, fellow practicing writers, what do you think? Does any of this resonate? And at what point in a project do you feel “ready” to tell a wide circle of others what you are working on?