Look Ma, I’m showing, not telling.

When I was about 12 or 13, I took a tape recorder I used to tape songs on the radio and decided to make my own recording. I had just learned what vibrato was, and wanted to practice it by singing a Backstreet Boys song. After re-recording my breathy rendition of “I Want it That Way” over and over, I finally got bored with it, and moved on to some other pursuit.

A while later, my dad found the recorder and listened to the tape. He played it for my sister and I, and said, “Who is this singing? It’s very good.”

Obviously, he knew who it was. My sister and I don’t sound anything alike, and I’m sure my face was a hot, beat red as I listened to my own voice played back to me.

But there was no way in hell I was going to admit that the singer was me. No. Way. In. Hell.

I have this weird hang-up with being creative around my family. It’s not that they don’t understand or appreciate it. My family has always fostered creativity in me. They encourage it.

But I am not at the point where I’m going to let them read what I write.

I recently had a similar experience as the one described above, only this time it was my newly-bound master’s thesis. I left it at their house, figuring that I probably didn’t need to cart it around with me as I made my transition from student to grown-up.

In the back of my mind, however, it lingered like that tape I recorded. What if they read it? What would they think? What would they think of me?

I don’t know why I should have cared if they did. None of the stories in that thesis are about my family. Maybe they could draw connections to themselves, but most people I know probably could.

When I finally had the book back in my possession, though, I have to admit, I was very relieved.

Does your family read what you write?


  • Seth Marlin says:

    My parents totally read my stuff, sometimes whether or not I want them to. Alas — far worse things in this world than to have supportive family, I suppose.

  • Sam Edmonds says:

    My mom once read an undergrad essay about my brother that I left in my old bedroom. She told me she liked it. Then I remembered what essay it was, and the secrets I spilled to my brother in it.

    Me: “Oh splendid – now you know that I smoked crack in Austin, Texas, back in ’02.”

    Mom: “Oh well, I love you anyway.”

    Whew – gotta love cool moms.

  • My mom really wants to read my stuff while it is in progress and is slightly hurt that I won’t let her. She’s an avid reader, but not a writer. I once tried to explain to her that since I wouldn’t ask her for advice about a broken down car because she’s not a mechanic, I would prefer if she didn’t read my stuff until it is finished.

    She told me she’s my mother and can give me advice on whatever she likes. Then we had a fight, then she pouted, then I felt guilty. Now we have a truce where she reads stuff after I feel I’m done with it.

    The rest of my family members have never asked to read any of my stuff.

  • Elizabeth Powers says:

    My parents first started reading my stuff when I was in undergrad, and my mom became horribly worried about me and was convinced that every awful person in one of my stories was based on her.

    She’s finally realized that I write fiction, and so everything I write is not a reflection of someone in the family. They read my stuff pretty regularly when I’m “done” with it.

    I sort of think it’s better that she got that horror out early. If anything ever gets published now, I don’t think I’ll worry so much about her flipping out on me over a detail she thinks she recognizes.

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