Want to write a book? Stop talking about it. Entirely. That’s what author Euny Hong says.
I instantly knew what she meant — Yes! I’ve met dozens, hundreds of all-talk-no-action non-writers. When I hear “I’m going to write a book,” I don’t leap with joy. I say, “Uh huh” in a mildly interested tone.
In reverse, I feel uneasy when people ask me, “What are you working on now?” Over the years I have learned to make my fob-offs more gracious than “Butt out!” But still I squirm. It doesn’t feel right to talk about a book that is simmering in my brain. It doesn’t feel healthy. It doesn’t even feel possible.
But wait, talking about a book is not all bad
But then I thought, hang on a minute … not every writer is the same as me. (I’m enlightened that way.) And how about discussions with writer friends? How about writers’ groups? Euny Hong exempts the first and damns the writers’ group out of hand.
The article had already prompted 98 comments when I read it. Let me summarise the arguments for and against declaring your intention to write a book.
Why you mustn’t talk about your unfinished or unstarted book
- depletes your finite fund of creative energy
- tricks your brain into thinking you have done the writing
- hooks you on talking about writing
- when intentions go public, likelihood of completion drops
- you get bored with your own ideas
- you get a reputation for being someone who doesn’t follow through
- you should under-promise and over-deliver
- wasting time
- quitting is shameful after you have announced your goal
- talking turns into work: fun at the start, then it becomes a drag
- bragging is a jinx
- inspiration and motivation should come from within
- exhausting, planning too much
- a way to procrastinate
- “If I get feedback, I struggle to get back to work on the piece.”
- “I feel pressured and lose interest if people start asking about my project.”
- the element of surprise never fails
Why it’s OK to talk about your unfinished or unstarted book after all
- depends who you tell: pick honest supportive people / colleagues / published writers / good critics / people who won’t suck the energy and life out of you
- declaring your intentions in public keeps you accountable
- people are not all the same
- it’s healthy peer pressure, and it works
- you create a support group who are looking for you to complete the book
- close family and friends need to know
- talking or not talking has no impact on whether you follow through
- be highly selective
- share small projects not long term ones
- ask yourself why you are sharing and choose what works for you
- share short tangible goals, e.g. finish editing this week
- quitting is shameful when you have announced your goal
- “I talk about my books all the time, and I’m a published writer”
- can break writer’s block, give you ideas
- it’s hard when you have lots of people close to you
- humans have a need to share especially things we are excited about
- you need to at first
- sometimes talking about it makes you picture it
Lessons for myself
- Some people (extraverts?) like to talk about their books. Others (intraverts?) don’t.
- Not a black-and-white choice. Do whatever works for you.
- If deep down you don’t really want to write a book but you love to think and talk about it — that’s nice, carry on.
- But you already write books. You do not need any advice in this department.