Writing Advice: Don’t Talk About Your Book Until It’s Done
There’s an old saying in the arts: Don’t talk about your next project until it’s done.
Well, before I answer that, let’s get into a little background on it first.
The saying comes from acting coach Michael Chekhov, a student of Stanislavsky’s who went on to teach such legendary stars as Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, and Marilyn Monroe. His thinking went like this: if you talk about your project (book, movie, song, etc.) before it’s finished, you’re diluting your creative energy. In fact, you’re keeping yourself from working on it because telling everyone about it is your creative release. That energy must be poured onto the page or the stage or the canvas. It will make your work more powerful, more immediate, more forceful.
That’s a big problem for writers. We love to talk about the new book we’re working on. Many of us have more enthusiasm telling our friends about our stories then we actually do writing it. We discuss the beginning, the ending, the characters, plot twists… even the movie deal and who we think should play the main character.
Don’t. Resist the urge. Put your energy into your work.
- What if you’re in a writers group where you have to talk about it before you’re done? Don’t talk about it between meetings. Let your fellow writers see it and no one else. Write for them as an intended audience.
- What if friends and family ask about your current book? Tell them it’s going fine. Stay positive even if you’re in the creative drought of your life. Don’t talk details with them.
- What if your editor or agent asks about your current book? Tell them a little more than you would friends and family, but only if you think they can pull you out of your funk. Or just tell them where you’re at in the novel without giving away too many details. You’re halfway through, three-quarters of the way through, revising the ending, making great progress with the main character, etc. Then meet those goals so you are. It’s deceptive, but then this is the arts. I prefer to call it “creative truth.”
- Remind yourself that not discussing it isn’t a prison, it’s freedom. You can make any changes you want and no one expects anything different. Change your main character from a European man to a West African woman. Move the setting from Paris to Rio. You can do it because no one knows any better. And that is the very definition of creative freedom. No one knows what to expect because you haven’t given them any expectations.
- Give yourself a reward. Pick something you want and give it to yourself if you don’t talk about your story for 24 hours. 48 hours, a week, whatever. The longer you go, the bigger the reward.
- Write in short bursts to unleash your creative energy before you feel the need to tell others. Whether that’s short scenes, detailed notes, a new plot twist, or anything else you can do in a two or three pages. Putting it down on the page makes staying quiet less imperative.
So, follow Chekhov’s advice and don’t talk about your work-in-progress until it’s done. Or at least the first draft is done. It will be hard at first, but the efforts you put into your work because you have no other outlet are worth it.
Remember, Keep Quiet & Keep Writing.