I have met so many, many writers who, upon introduction, told me that they wrote for themselves. That they always kept a journal. That their writing was this secret imaginary friend that only they could see, and if someone caught them playing with him or her they would disavow any knowledge of it.
I routinely force my imaginary friends on everyone else.
I started a fiction group in Pittsburgh in 2009 (affectionately called “For Fiction’s Sake!” because…well, you get it) and it has been on-going to present (sort of, though smaller). I started it out with a big smile, so open-minded and happy and “Let’s all give our writing a hug!” Not so much anymore. Now, it isn’t out of the question for us to spend half of our time telling each other what to fix in our writing.
I didn’t bring my stuff at first. Most were familiar with it, but not in a critique-y kind of way. “Oh, I’m the facilitator. You go ahead. Oh, I absolutely insist! Let’s discuss this wonderful simile here…” And when I did, I got a number of odd looks (most in our group write literary fiction — I write strange fiction).
But it got better! For them and for me. And most important, for my writing.
Taking that step forward and letting your stories or poetry or essays out of the closet and revealing them to other eyes…I won’t lie to you. It’s hard at first. To you, your words are a glorious pile of treasure, polished and shining. And woe to those who take advantage of the incredible gift you’ve given them, the opportunity to see it!
To them, it might be a gold-plated turd.
Take a breath. Let someone “nice” look at it first. Not too nice. Not your mom. A teacher, maybe, or a coworker; someone who likes you but would tell you if your fly was undone. Ask them to tell you just one thing that could use some work. Thank them. Cry about it for a while.
Then think about it.
You’ll be ready for public speaking in your underwear in no time.