To be more specific, I should probably say “why I’m afraid to publish.” And by publish I mean put writing out there. At all. Anywhere. In front of anyone. Even my BFF Christine, who knows what a sensitive, delicate flower I am.
I’m afraid of getting hurt.
Allow me to elaborate. First of all, I’m an elementary school teacher. One might think such a position might make me impervious to emotional and personal barbs of all kinds. Not so. Despite the fact that I’m displaying my hard work in writing, acting, and lesson planning to over six hundred children each week, I’m prepared for it. I learned in grad school how valuable feedback on teaching is. The majority of learning how to teach is listening to how you could do something better.
I don’t have a problem with annoying kid comments (although they don’t say them to my face, probably because they know I would simply eat them). I generally even value the feedback of my students – because if they don’t get it, I’m not doing my job correctly. I can even handle parents, mostly, though their criticisms are far more cutting and sometimes deliberately hurtful (nothing like casting doubt on parenting skills to get someone riled up). I’ll go home and cry about it, maybe, but I still get up and go back to work the next day.
Prior to teaching, I was a singer – a classical and jazz vocalist on my way to the professional music scene. Talk about critical! But the criticism and necessity for public exposure wasn’t even what lead me to leave that route (other than the very unattractive sniping of some vocalists… that could get downright vicious, and I wasn’t willing to compete that way). I never had a problem singing in front of people, or speaking in front of people, for that matter.
Along those same lines, I’m also a cosplayer. I wear costumes out in public and post pictures of them online, opening myself to loads of potential criticism (as well as simple bashing and nastiness, which is why we don’t go on 4chan or basically read any comments ever anywhere anymore). I certainly had my share of feeling resentful about disapproving comments, but it never stopped me from making more costumes. I’ve even learned at this stage to value a good constructive criticism.
I’m a thick-skinned hardass at this point, based on all the above information, right? If I’m that tough about my teaching and singing and costuming, why not writing? Why am I scared so shitless of sharing my work, even with those close to me (often I find it more difficult to share my work with people I’m close to)? Why do I suffer and tremble at the thought of emailing a draft to a friend for a quick read?
I think there are two major reasons why. First, I think my writing is far and away a more personal & internal expression than singing or cosplay. With both of those activities focusing on ‘translating’ the work of others to a performance, I’m not responsible for the creation. I’m a translator, an interpreter, a performer. I don’t have to be held to task for a creation. It doesn’t come from me, it come through me. I think that prevents some of the discomfort that comes with being the birth-mother of a work of literature. Oh, this? Yeah, it’s okay, it’s not really mine.
Second is my own damn fault: I’m picky. I need to let my perfectionist tendencies go. Fortunately, the Cymbalta helps with that a little bit (not kidding in the least here, thanks modern medicine), but I’m still left with the task of actually doing it. No number of pills is going to get on my hard drive and upload the drivel I’ve been writing for the last dozen years (having that attitude is probably not helping me, either).
There’s one other thing: I used to write fanfic. I used to write it a lot and was involved with a great beta group. That was nearly seven years ago, and as I got involved with other things, I didn’t write as much. So I think another small part is simply the atrophy of my writing skills. Or the fear of said atrophy, really – I read what I write and it seems okay.
I speak in front of classes of kids every day. Public speaking holds no fear for me. But I’ve only been skiing once in the last decade; I feel wobbly at just the thought of being on a pair of skiis. Is it going to hurt if I fall over? Probably. Does that mean I shouldn’t do it? Of course not. I absolutely need to do it.
So here’s my solution. Someone hold me accountable. Someone hold me responsible. I need to write. And I need to share it.