The strange thing is--you'd think it'd get easier, and maybe it has. Still, there is always that moment when I'm sending someone a manuscript or giving someone a book where it feels like I'm giving them something so personal that I feel like it's peeking into my brain. It feels like I'm giving away my secrets one at a time.
I don't think non-writers get it.
Even as fast as I write--I've still spent hour upon hour thinking about my characters--wondering what they'd do. I still research everything to death. While I'm driving, I'm thinking "you know, it would be amazing if...." While I'm trying to sleep, I'm thinking of conversation between characters. Then, there is that first moment--when it begins--and something wanders into your mind asking "what if?" At the end, when it's over, there is that elation of it's done--they're done with their trip in my head. You know how it ends--you can return to life. You can breathe again. Each little character walks out of your head with some bit of them that is personal to you. Maybe you see a little of yourself in their self-conscious thoughts. Maybe you spent a long time agonizing over what they'd do in a situation. Maybe you secretly hated them--or loved them.
There is a deep intimacy between a writer and what they write.
Each time I hand off something, I worry that it's too obvious how I feel about something. There is that self-conscious instant like stepping out of a dressing room in an outfit that you grabbed on a whim as you walked by. (Only--it wasn't a whim--and you'd been staring at it the whole time. Still, if you act like it doesn't matter--if you pretend that you won't be hurt no matter what--you can be brave enough to step out of the curtain and hope that if they hate it--they won't realize how much it meant to you.)
You'd think it would feel a little less intimate after so many books, but it still feels like I'm standing there in a shirt that looks like Van Gogh hurled on it and bright orange jeans and thinking "this is sort of the real me" while saying "I just grabbed this on my way into the dressing room. It's crazy, right? It makes my hips look huge. The shirt is a little out there."
For the most part, I don't expect brutal honesty. Seriously, does anyone want brutal honesty even if they act like they do? Even if someone says, I want to improve this--tell me what you really think. The translation is: I've worked on this. I've invested in this. It must be good in some way. Help me find a way to make it work. No one wants to hear: "Put that in a drawer somewhere. No, better yet, douse it in gasoline and burn it."
It's harder to send it out to agents and publishers, of course. It stings a little more when they look at your Van Gogh shirt and say, "Whoa! I can't believe that even made it onto the racks. Who'd ever wear that? No one is going to buy that. I'd never wear that."
It doesn't matter, though, right? It can't matter.
It's business--just business.
I hate that. I hate that we're told to think of something we've written like that. If it was just business, your writing would be crap. If you didn't put yourself in it, then there would be no point to showing it to anyone.
I don't care if it's tacky to say this, but it's never business with me. Never. Not in my blog posts. Not in my flash fiction. Not in my manuscripts. It just isn't. It's a bit of me, standing outside the curtain--fully intending to buy the shirt and the jeans--even if I just hide them away in my closet, proud that I had the guts to step outside the curtain.