Saturday, January 2, 2010

Writers, Readers and Friends

A friend of mine asked if she could read one of my stories some day... every time she mentions it, I had brushed the thought aside. She's a "new" friend who works at the local library and has a European background and a literary taste similar to mine.

As writers, we gather friends around us who are other writers, readers, or "bookless" folk. When one of the more "bookless" friends asks to read something, I always worry it's just a polite offer to show interest in something I do. I avoid dealing with these offers. Until they get wrapped up in my literary pursuits some other way.

Now, writer friends fall into two camps: the anxious and the reluctant. Both are dangerous. The anxious writer friend wants to read you as soon as possible, as if to judge you and base your friendship on what your words do. These writers can be dangerous. They're the ones that can sometimes push too far in "helping" and try to influence your work in ways you don't want and then you're stuck telling them their ideas suck.

The reluctant reader is the writer friend whose voice you respect, and you want to read their stuff because you like them so much (becoming the anxious reader from above) and you want to know if they like your stuff. Almost like seeking compatibility as much as moral support. But you don't want to ask or be pushy.

My new friend is a reader, and readers are the best friends writers can have. They read the work and react to it without trying to influence it. They are honest without looking for things to fix and they can read the work without pushing their own style on it.

But as a friend, considerate writers need to remember not to overwhelm their reader friends with too many requests. That's why I'm often reluctant to take advantage of a new reader friend, because that level of intimacy changes the relationship. As the author, you have certain questions you want to ask, but you don't want to become a pest or desperate.

So, if you ask to read my stuff, remember this.

1 comment:

  1. I am very careful who I let read my stuff. For me, as a writer, I don't want crappy ideas to influence my work. I know it's rude, maybe snobbish, but who cares? I read carefully as well. Though an editor pal of mine, an editor at a major publishing firm, once told me, "Read everything you can get your hands on." I disgree. I told her so. I try and read the prose and the storylines and the kind of characters who will sink into my head and leave me with dreams and ideas that will invade my work, making it better. Hopefully. This is the plan anyway. The plan has yet to fail me. When I read well, I write well.

    I feel the same about readers of my work. I write because it is a compulsion, and because I don't do anything else all that impressively, and because my characters are so damn interesting to me. I have to know where they are running off to. I want the readers who are not going to be afraid to say, "This is stupid. Why are you insulting my intelligence?" or who can honestly insist, "You are on to something. Keep following it, but get out your copy of Strunk and White again before you come back to me."

    My 50 cents, because I am loaded on caffeine this evening. Excuse the grammar mistakes. It's my weakness.

    Happy New Year!