Since pre-K, my reply to the common question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has always been, “An author.” I’d spend afternoons creating my own makeshift books (stacks of printer paper stapled together with a poorly illustrated cover) and fill in the pages with stories only a kid could find engaging. Fortunately, my writing has evolved since then, from tales of talking cats to topics that are more age-appropriate (and slightly less crazy).
One thing has never changed, though: my fear of sharing what I’d written with anyone else. My stories were mine and mine alone, my secret treasures for my own enjoyment. There’s always been something scary about putting what I made out into the world, whether that be turning a paper in for a class, or letting my friends read a poem I’d written.
Now, here I am, doing potentially the most personal thing on the most public forum for the entire Internet to see. And I think I’m okay with that.
I’m in college studying to be a journalist. Obviously I should expect that my writing will be read. It will be judged. Some people may not like it. Some people may absolutely hate it, appalled by the way I string words together to make a sentence. There will always be those people. I know we’re taught not to care about what others think of us – but with writing, it’s different. Writing is like putting a piece of myself onto a page for everyone to see. I can deal with a girl criticizing my outfit; that much doesn’t affect me. A nasty comment about a piece of my writing, though, and it’s like a punch in the gut, a personal attack against me.
More important, though, is that there will always be the people there who support you. The people that tell you they love your short story, even though you know it’s ridden with grammatical errors. The people that offer to fix those grammatical errors for you. The ones that love you for you, in all your yoga-pants-wearing, Star-Wars-watching, cat-loving glory.
And arguably, what matters most of all is how you feel about what you’re putting out there. This stretches far beyond putting a blog post on a website. Writers, be proud of what you’ve made; show it off to the world. Whether it’s words, art, music, or even yourself – be confident in it. This is something I can’t stress enough. If you adore something, if you’ve put your heart and soul into it, and believe in it with all of your strength, then who can tell you that it’s wrong? Don’t let anyone scare you out of sharing what you have to offer with the world.
Moral of the story: there will always be people looking to tear you down. Seek out people that build you up, that make the world a little less scary to insert yourself into. This is me, putting a piece of myself out there now, too, and I’m more than okay with it. This is more than just me letting my best friend read my latest piece of writing (reluctantly, I might add). This is me letting countless strangers read my latest piece of writing. I’m excited and terrified. But I think some of the best things in life elicit that sort of reaction.
So, here’s to not being afraid of words – your own, or others’ – anymore. Write away.