Peeping Over the Shoulder

Or Why Do I Panic When Someone Reads My Work?

I write my blog posts on the train as some of you who have read my previous posts will know.  My blog is all about trying to write whilst holding down a full time job, hence the name The Odd Half Hour which is how most of my writing gets done.  And a good proportion of that is done on the train.  Right now I am squashed on the end of a three seater with people standing up beside me.  The train, like all commuter trains, is packed. And this is where the panic sets in.  Any one of these people could look over my shoulder, glance down at what I am doing and read what I have written.  Any one of these people.  The man sat next to me.  The woman standing alongside my seat. Any one of them could read this.  I am squashing down the terror as I write.

What will they think?  What if they think it is rubbish?  What if they wonder what on earth I am doing?  What if they are laughing at me behind their copies of Metro for being so deluded to think that someone might be interested in what I am writing?  I can feel myself hunching over my ipad right this minute trying to shield as much of the screen from prying eyes.

But why?  I am writing this to post.  To publish on my blog.  I will Tweet about it and scour my retweets and favourites to see how many of my followers have encouraged their followers to read it.  I will pore over my blog stats to see if anyone has visited that page on my site. So why on earth am I so nervous about people reading it on the train?

For me I am sure it is still not knowing if I am any good at this fiction writing thing. A fear that this might genuinely be awful.  A blog post is almost anonymous, I don’t have to look into anyone’s eyes but on the train, these people can see me. I am not a ‘proper’ writer so who do I think I am?

I decided to invest in an independent editorial report (see earlier blog post) and sent the completed manuscript for Thicker Than Water to The Literary Consultancy.  I remember the sick feeling when they tweeted me to say that I could expect the report later that day.  What if I had put my heart and soul into this, taken four months off work and the report comes back with just a comment saying:  ‘Really??!!’  Of course it didn’t.

I have written for a living all my life in some way or other.  I started my career as a journalist in local papers, moved onto the natonals, did a side step into PR and have worked in media and communications ever since.  My work has always involved writing: press releases, marketing materials, advertorial copy, reports, presentations.  I am very used to having my work read and judged so I should have the confidence that I can string a sentence together.  But writing as an author means more to me and that is why I am scared.

But how do these commuters pressed against me know that I am not a best selling author already?  I may have thousands of blog subscribers and a legion of Twitter followers all waiting patiently for my next post. Also the man squeezed beside me might be a top literary agent or a successful publisher.  He may be amazed at the quality of my writing knocked up on a packed train and be determined to approach me once we get off and offer me a multi book deal.  You never know.  So I must learn to stop hunching.  Be bold and brave and let people read. Courage.

PS  He wasn’t


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