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Fear and Writing: Do You Hide Your Writing From Friends & Family?

by Matthew Turner

Friends… Family… Colleagues… you have to love them, don’t you?

They’re always there for you, yet sometimes we feel more vulnerable around them than when we’re surrounded by strangers. I spent six years writing my first novel, and up until a few months ago, only a handful of people knew about it.

I’m not sure why, but the thought of telling my friends and family was terrifying. Strangers, sure, that’s the easy part.

Those you love… that’s a whole other realm.

A Frightening Journey
Writing a book takes many hours. It’s a journey on epic levels, especially if it’s your first. You are putting your heart and soul on the page and leaving yourself open to anything.

Hatred from strangers is one thing, but what if those you love hate it too? Or what if they are merely apathetic? What if they think less of me for it?

I suppose this is what was holding me back: fear. In the early days of writing, I was an amateur, so didn’t have to share my work with anyone. But once I decided to take it to the next level (as Mr Pressfield would say, Turn Pro) I had to get the confidence to share it with those special folks in my life.

And this involved confronting every fear I have about my writing, and even my identity to friends and family.

The 5 Fs
I want to share with you my thoughts on telling friends and family about my writing. I want to tell you because I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I hear stories all the time about people feeling more anxiety toward sharing their writing with those they know, than those they don’t. It sounds absurd, until it is your own writing, and your own family and friends. So let’s dig into this mindset:

  1. FEAR
    Imagine this scenario: a marketer who hadn’t taken a writing class since he was sixteen, releasing a novel. That’s me.

    Simply put: I was terrified about what those who knew me would think. I was scared of their judging eyes. I feared their pessimism, or even taunts. And it ate away at me inside. A writer needs thick skin, but they also need a support network that keeps you pushing onward. I feared I wouldn’t have this.

    The outcome: Once I did share my work with friends and family, I found that most people were very supportive, thought my novel was great, and weren’t all that surprised I had created it. It was an incredible feeling to realize that the support network I need is very much in full force. I’m a lucky boy.

  2. FEEDBACK
    All writers need feedback. Getting it from a stranger is one thing, receiving it from your best friend or family member, well, this can be hard to take. What if they hated it or couldn’t stand to finish? How would it affect our relationship?

    The outcome: I didn’t ask too many friends for early feedback, and those who I tend to speak to about it are great. They don’t always love what I write, but their honest feedback isn’t as difficult to take as I expected. Even though it feels safer to not share, I am learning to build that habit with those around me.

    

  3. FUTURE
    One aspect I feared was the future. I didn’t know if they would look at me the same. Would they assume I wouldn’t want to come and watch football, or were they worried about speaking honestly around me in the fear of it one day appearing in a book?

    The outcome: my mind was acting like a crazy fool. My friends are friends, and they wouldn’t treat me differently simply because they now know I am a writer.

  4. FORGIVENESS
    I was worried that my friends and family would be hurt about leaving them in the dark for so long, that I spent years writing this book in secret.

    I felt rather guilty about the whole process, especially around those who I’m very very close with. They lived under the assumption they knew me better than most, but here I was with a rather large secret. Is the life of a writer a double-life?

    The outcome: people were happy for me, that I had another creative outlet. Some were surprised with this identity I hand’t told them about, and some seemed unsure. They supported me though, and once they read my work they quickly saw that I’d taken the process seriously. This, I feel, eased any scepticism.

  5. FRIENDSHIP
    I was generally worried about what it would do to my social group. I have a rather tight-knit friendship with a few select folk, and I was anxious if this new direction would take me away from them.

    The outcome: Like I said earlier, friends are friends. It generally takes a lot to change this. I also think it helped a few people look at themselves and ask whether they were happy. I took a huge risk, and people respect this – although I won’t lie, I sense some people want me to fail. This is more down to insecurity than anything else, though.

My Irrational Mind
I hope you haven’t gone through the same worries, but I suspect some have. For one reason or another, telling those closest to you about something so special leaves you vulnerable and scared.

Will you lose a few friends? Maybe, but they probably weren’t that good a friend in the first place. Will things change? A little, sure, but your life is still your life. It’s for you to decide.

Overall I’m glad my friends and family know about my writing. It’s a weight off of my shoulders; one I didn’t know I had until it was lifted off of them.

If you suffer similar self-destruction please share them in the comments below. I’m not alone in this, that I’m sure of. It would be amazing to hear what other people have gone through, what they did to overcome it, and how they move forward with their chin held high.

Let’s crowd source some solutions and help people who have yet to make the jump.

– Matthew turner


Matthew Turner is a writer from Yorkshire, England. His debut novel, Beyond Parallel launches January 8th. He is offering a special promotion where you receive more than $50 of bonuses in the first three days. In the same mold as Sliding Doors, Beyond Parallel flips between two parallel tales.

  • Since my medium is memoir, I have an even greater reason to fear what friends and family might think. Many of them are in my book! And there are so many ways to offend, including NOT writing about people who are important to me but not as important to the story.

    I have found, however, that the main characters in my story can be among my best responders to late-stage drafts. I need them to help my memory and to be advocates to other readers, including, possibly, family members.

    Like you, I am fortunate in having very supportive family and friends. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel some fear about publishing. The good news is that fear propels me to try to write the best book I am capable of.

    • Thanks Shirley!

    • Yes, I hear memoirs can be tough. A friend of mine has a great memoir, but she tells me how some people were very against it. I suppose it’s fragile.

      Those who support though, well, they are amazing, aren’t they.

      Thanks for the comment

      Matthew

  • Guest

    I have found that friends have been supportive and extremely excited. I have met some people who say, ‘I’ve never met an author,’ which sounds strange in so many ways. Some have felt threatened by the idea of me writing for fear that I might write about personal situations. At the end of the day you write for your own enjoyment and hopefully for the enjoyment of your readers. Best of luck, Matthew, with your book. Fiona

  • www.everydayspirituality.me

    I write only for fun but I was terrified of starting a blog because I was afraid of the criticism. I thought Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way was a major inspiration and finally helped me get my “baby art” out there.

  • Jim Self

    A great way to conquer fear is to make sure you’re improving. It’s okay to fail if you have an active plan to get better every day. Some people feel like writing is an innate ability that you have or don’t. Some people are naturally better, but even they get better with practice and study. So plan to get better either way!