Do you show your work too early?

I have a very bad habit of talking myself out of doing projects once I’ve started blabbing about them. It’s even worse if I show someone the work before it’s done. Once I put the manuscript in someone else’s hands, I might as well just delete the files and close up shop.

Neil Gaiman definitely knows what I’m talking about. Here is his recent response to an email on writer’s block:

From Neil Gaiman’s Journal: on being venerable

I think the main thing you’ve learned is that you’re not someone who can show things to people until they’re done. And sometimes it can really throw everything off when people read a chapter and love it (or hate it) (or simply comment on it). Other people really need to have someone seeing something as it goes to drive them. You’ve learned that — on this at least — you’re not someone who should be showing stuff around.

Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are.

And you do it all one word at a time.

I’d place a heavy emphasis on the longer part of that last paragraph. A few days is usually not long enough for me to get back to a project once it’d died in my lap. The suggestion is a good one though. I’d probably add that once you’ve identified yourself as this sort of writer you should keep your mouth shut. No one needs to know what you are working on except you (especially since once someone else knows about it you won’t be working on anything).

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