Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Won't Anyone Read My Stuff?

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
Something you may encounter a lot as a young writer is that when you try to get somebody to read what you have written, people will give you a flat out no. Even worse, they’ll say that they are going to read it, but then they don’t, or they start to read it and then never finish it.

If you’re lucky like I was, you’ll have a best friend who not only read the stuff you printed out for them, but kept your story in their desk drawer for over ten years. (Love you, S.!)

Sadly, the younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ll experience this lack of interest in your writing. Even more sadly, I actually did this to my sister multiple times when she was writing stories. “No thanks, not right now…” “Maybe when it’s finished…” “Sorry, that doesn’t sound interesting…”

In retrospect, I wish that I hadn’t brushed her off.  I wish I’d read her stories.  In the Great Computer Crash of 2000-whatever, all of those stories got lost, so now I can’t read them. I just wish I’d realized sooner that I was doing to her what others were doing to me – the things that truly hurt me. It drove me nuts that my older sister wouldn’t read my story, especially since I took the time to read her Star Trek: Voyager fan fictions.

I’m writing a novel here! An actual novel! The least people could do is read it.  Nobody takes me seriously.

But I never took my younger sister’s work seriously, even though she read my story. How’s that for hypocrisy?

So, if you’re a writer whose siblings don’t seem the tiniest bit interested in your writing, let me offer a little bit of perspective for you.

These are your siblings we’re talking about.

You know, the people who can’t stand it if you like the same music as them? Or the people who fight with you over who gets the front seat of the car, who gets to play the new computer game first, why one of you is allowed to wear makeup/use the ride-on lawn mower/watch scary movies at a younger age than another one of you is…

…and you expect these people to take an interest in your writing?

When all of you are older and moved out of the house, you’ll probably find that you have an easier time getting along. Then, you might find that they are willing to look at your writing, if you still want to share it with them. But in the meantime, as much as it sucks, remember that it’s almost a universal constant that you’ll have a hard time getting along with your siblings.  Don’t look to them for validation here.

What if your friends at school aren’t interested in reading it? That could kind of make you feel a little down – even my own friends don’t want to read my story.  However, do you and your friends have identical interests? If your story is a zombie vampire slasher and your friends prefer things like The Fault in Our Stars, they probably don’t want to read it for the same reason that they wouldn’t want to read a zombie vampire slasher novel, probably even if it was written by Nicolas Sparks.

It feels personal.  A lot of these things feel personal. But they aren’t.  It’s a question of people’s interests. As much as it sucks to realize this, it can be kind of liberating. The problem isn’t you.  It’s that you’re asking the wrong people, sort of like the Omaha Steak Company trying to market their product to vegans.

What about your parents? If you’re like I was and have a really close relationship with your parents, it can sting if they’re not interested. But…if you’re writing a romance and your dad only likes zombie vampire slashers, it’s not that he’s uninterested in your work – it’s that he’s uninterested in romance.

This leaves what’s probably the most frustrating thing – people who say they’ll read your stuff, but never do. (Or they start, but they don’t.) They keep saying that they’re too busy, but you start to get the feeling that they are just brushing you off.  It’s super easy to take this personally. This is one of those things that really hurts. It’s one thing for people to say ‘no,’ but it’s another for them to say ‘yes’ and then act like they didn’t mean it. This can feel like they lied to you.

I’m going to give you the single most difficult piece of advice ever: don’t take it personally. 

Everything about it feels personal.  But you have to understand: you only have control over yourself. You can’t make them like or read your story, but you can choose your reaction to them.  Will you feel hurt? Yeah. Angry? Yeah. You still have the choice to hold a grudge or just let it go.  Confrontation probably won’t end well, especially if it’s somebody close to you. 

So, put on your Queen Elsa dress and start singing “Let it goooo…”

Way, way easier said than done. Especially if they don’t make an Elsa dress in your size. 

If you give them enough time and space, they’ll probably finish reading it eventually. And if they never do, they never do. Let it goooo…
You have enough things to worry about without fixating on this. Remember that your circle of acquaintances is not representative of the world at large, so don’t worry that NO ONE will EVER like your work because nobody but you seems interested right now.  Trust me. At some point, you’ll be able to belt out, “The cold never bothered me anyway.” 

Do you feel like people around you simply don’t take interest in your work? Share your thoughts or any questions in the comments. 

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  1. Honestly, as the oldest of three sisters (one of whom can't read yet), I tend to keep my siblings away from my stories. It does sting a little when a parent or friend changes the subject immediately when I ask him/her if she/he wants to hear some of one fanfic or another, but mostly I spend my writing time alone, and I enjoy it. A is the one exception. I guess writing together will do that, huh?

    1. That's one of those things that probably stems from the fact that your friend and/or parent does not share interest in your "fandom." There are also some people who simply think fan fiction is silly. Identify the people who a) aren't interested in what you are interested in and b) dislike fan fiction as a concept. Then, simply don't petition these people to read and/or hear about your writing. It's anything but personal - on your part or theirs. Don't read it as disinterest in YOU (because that is what stings), read it as disinterest in the TOPIC.

      Easier said than done, I know. Now sing with me!! "Let it gooo...."

    2. Of course! I do make an effort to show people the fanfic corresponding with their own interests, but like I said, I don't put too much stock in finding people to read my work. They can come to me when I start posting fanfic online, after all.

  2. I still want to finish reading your first novel, when you're done with it. And my offer still stands to help edit your current one! Even if I'm not the best editor in the world. ;-)