[Life] The crippling fear of the written word

I’ve been writing on and off since high school, or there about. Back then I was writing essays and creative pieces for school and only enjoying some of them. I can still remember the very first piece of creative writing I penned on my own, but I cannot remember the exact date. It may have been around grade 10, which was 2002, I think?

For the longest of times, I was happy to show off my work to anyone and everyone who would read it. I would write, hand out pieces, tweak, write, hand out pieces, and so on. Hell, I even submitted my first (and darkest piece up until that point) to my high school for a writing competition. Of course, it was never accepted, but at least, I tried.

Back then, I hated criticism and, to me, it felt like people didn’t really understand any of my pieces. I must mention that it was rare I receive any criticism at all, but I guess my high school friends and I weren’t mature enough for that sort of thing – it’s all I can really think of.

Since then I’ve grown more confident, bolder, and more experimental with my writing. Heck, last year I actually managed to finish the first draft of a 35 000 word novella. I haven’t gone back to it yet, but I do keep thinking about it. I even managed to write a conversational piece about a cat, which I wouldn’t have done in the past.

Along with this boldness came fright, fearfulness, and the gut-wrenching agony that follows you like a stalker in the dark. It happens when you put all of your heart and soul into a piece.

In my professional life as a writer/journalist/reviewer/whatever I feel like calling myself, I write several pieces a day. Having been a professional writer since May of last year, submitting each and every piece for “subbing” (sub-editing) and publishing is a nightmare that follows with some fear. I both need and want the feedback to everything I write, but at the same time, I don’t. This fear I live with and accept it as part of the job. Then again I’m also scared of getting a fact wrong, which doesn’t happen with fiction.

But, my creative writing is something different. Over the past few years, I’ve written and published a few short stories (Friday Flash pieces) on this website, and a few others, for fun. I want to show people what I create; I really do, but I absolutely hate it at the same time. For one, I fear people will hate my work, even though I know you cannot write for everyone, which I’ve seen so far. I hate receiving praise. I hate not receiving praise. I hate not know if people do or don’t like my pieces. I hate the thought that somewhere out the great expanse of the Internet, someone else has written the same thing.

Case in point, a few months ago I asked my colleagues to read over some of my creative pieces. While one of them came back to me and adored the texts, the others didn’t and seem to have all but forgotten. For me, that’s okay, and I’ve asked them once more if anyone looked at the pieces, but at the same time, it’s also not okay. At least, for me. I shudder at the thought of any of these people who I respect saying they love of hate the things I’ve written done, the things that came out of my head, the things I’ve dreamt up.

Here’s the clincher: it’s actually okay to feel this way. It’s okay to feel all of these emotions. I’m not along. If you’re a writer and you’re reading this, you’re not alone either. I’ve spoken to a few friends in the past about the topic, and all of them assure me it’s perfectly normal. I guess some people would say, “Man up. Do it. Put yourself out there. It comes with the territory,” but these are very big pills to swallow.

I guess, what I’m really trying to say is: it’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to be both proud and ashamed of your work. You’re putting yourself out there for the world to see, or ever just a few people in a circle of friends or frenemies, or, hey, just on your side blog or Live Journal page. You’re a writer and asking people to read your work has already been one of the hardest steps. You’ve taken it no matter how passive.

It’s okay. You’re not alone.

Image provided by studio tdes on Flickr.