There is one thing that scares writers out of their skin. It keeps them up at night. It causes them to wring their hands, bite their nails, or exhibit whatever nervous habit they might otherwise hide.
Ready for it?
Crazy, right? Most people who write do so for an audience, after all. (If you’re one of those writers who truly does just write for yourself and hide it all away, you probably can skip to a different blog post.) But actually taking that first step and sharing your writing with someone else can be terrifying.
Think about it. A writer spends all kinds of effort into something that comes from inside them. In a way, this writing is a piece of them. And then you offer it to someone else, wondering how they will respond to it. It’s extremely vulnerable to share an insight into who you are (even if it’s fictitious writing) and then to hear someone give feedback. It can almost feel as if that person is evaluating a part of you.
I’m sure others can relate. Artists, craftspeople, performers . . . even though they typically rely on an audience of some sort, it’s risky business.
So, how can a writer overcome this fear?
- Start small. If you’ve written your first poem ever, you might not want to share it on social media for all to see. You might get criticism. You might get ignored. You might get misplaced encouragement (nice, but not always helpful). Focus on one or two people, or even a small group. Try to find people you can trust with a part of yourself.
- Start smart. It might make sense to share with your mom, brother, or love of your life. But be careful!! Are you ready for the truth? If their potential criticism will damage your relationship, you might want to start with someone a little less emotionally involved. A classmate or a colleague, for example.
- Keep at it. Sure, keep at writing. But keep at sharing too! This is gonna hurt sometimes. But with each experience, you get a little tougher and a little wiser. It’ll help you discern when to listen to the critics and when to let it go.
- Be the audience. You need to take a turn in the reader’s chair. If you share your writing with a fellow writer, maybe they will reciprocate! When you are the one giving criticism, it’ll teach you two things: (1) Give feedback in the way you’d like to receive it. You can be truthful and kind at the same time. (2) You don’t hate this person’s writing or this person. The feeling is mutual. You wouldn’t want them to take everything too personally, so you should keep that in mind yourself.
- Realize that this is risky. But it’s worth it. As your audience grows, the feedback will increase. Some of it will overwhelm you with joy. Some of it will overwhelm you with frustration. But if you want your words to reach others, that’s the risk you take. And if your words truly help others, then it’s worth the sacrifice and the scariness.