One of the hurdles aspiring authors need to overcome is the fear of sharing. This fear is linked to a fear of rejection and failure.
What if no one likes our writing? What if readers think our ideas are boring, or our writing is bad? What if they hate our characters (no, not my babies!)
I have wrestled with this fear (and mostly failed to be honest) since my childhood. To be specific, since the 3rd grade. That’s Year 4 to readers in the UK, and somewhere between 8 and 9 years old.
We moved across the country in the middle of 3rd grade, so I was a new kid who transferred into class in the middle of the semester. I didn’t have any friends; I was falling behind in classwork since I missed a few weeks of instruction. I wore weird clothes because what was “in fashion” in my old neighborhood was nothing like the trends at my new school.
It was the year that I decided I wanted bangs… and cut them myself. It did not go well. And my greasy, sweaty childhood forehead made it even worse.
It was also the year that I got glasses. And it was the 90s, so they were the huge (not cute) glasses that covered half my face and made me look like a super nerd way before being a nerd was cool.
There I was, the new kid with crazy bangs and super nerd glasses. My new teacher chose Roald Dahl’s The Witches for our group reading and decided to have students write a supernatural or scary story of our own.
Being a fan of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series (wasn’t every child who grew up in the 90s?), and a particular fan of The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, decided that I was going to write about a werewolf.
I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and we had a house on the edge of a swamp, so I started my life surrounded by a swamp like the one in R.L. Stine’s book, and that may have been what attracted me to it.
Off I went into my own imagination. I wrote far more than the teacher required. If memory serves, the teacher asked for a minimum of three paragraphs; the story just had to have a beginning, middle, and end. I’m pretty sure I wrote between 3 and 5 pages. The teacher was very impressed and I got a fantastic grade.
And she wanted me to take her place one day in the group reading time and read my story to the class. I was so excited. I felt like I was on top of the world. My classmates were going to love my story, I was going to get new friends, and I would be the next R. L. Stine.
You can see where this is headed, right?
Of course, the story was very Mary Sue. The main character was a girl who had just moved to a new house with lots of trees in the yard. She didn’t have very many friends, so instead, she decided she wanted to pursue photography. She climbed out of her bed in the middle of the night and went out into the woods behind her house with a camera in tow, only to find that she wasn’t the only thing in the woods. Dun. Dun. Dunnn.
The main character is, of course, bitten and transforms into a werewolf with a whirl of brightly colored lights floating in the air (Twilight can have it’s sparkly vampires, I had rainbow glow werewolf transformations).
At that point, one of the girls in my class started to laugh.
Oh, my poor writer’s heart. I hadn’t written the colored lights to be funny, but it apparently struck her funny bone.
And being the new kid who wanted to make friends, I immediately started to read the rest of the story as if it were supposed to be funny.
It was such a mistake.
This was the very first time that I had shared an original story with a group of people, and I felt like my writing had been rejected by the audience. Even though it was just one person who laughed, it has heavily impacted me all these years later because I still hate to share my work with anyone.
And to make matters worse, by changing how I read the story, I felt like I made light of my own writing. I disappointed myself and have always felt guilty towards that little werewolf story.
It was a terrible thing to do to my very first story child.
So Now What?
Over the years, I have occasionally tried to get out of my comfort zone and share my original stories to a few people.
In high school, I shared the first 100+ pages of a novel with my then English teacher and a few of my friends. However, I did it separately, so that the interaction and feedback I received was one-on-one instead of facing a group. And I shared it with my parents.
My mother is a grammar nerd and edited training manuals as part of her job. My father is a science nerd who almost became an engineer (so he sees all kinds of logic loopholes, but is very blunt when he tells you about them).
My poor manuscript was covered in ink and all the issues I hadn’t worked out in my brain were brought up.
That poor story child lies printed out in the bottom of a drawer, unfinished.
In college, I started writing more short stories. Several of these started as an assignment in a literature class where we had to share and edit our stories with other students. This time I worked with a small group, and it was no longer one-on-one. I also took a creative writing class my senior year, which meant sharing my work with a group of more than a dozen people.
In grad school, I published a short story and several poems in the college literary magazine and a separate article in a state wide educator’s newsletter.
When I started this blog, my intention was to work towards sharing more of my work. While the internet can often feel like I am writing into the void, it is readily available to anyone with a connection, so it is essentially opening my work to the largest group of people that I possibly can.
To my poor first story child: Thanks for being my first, and I’m sorry.
To my fear of sharing: I’m working on evicting you, so don’t stay too comfortable.