One of the best things about writing is being read. Unfortunately, that can also be one of the scariest things. When you’re just starting out, it can feel like a huge jump to let someone else read your story for the first time. It feels like another jump to move past the eyes of kindly family and friends to asking strangers to read and (gulp) comment on your writing. And even if you’ve been writing and publishing for many years, there may still be days when you’re afraid to let anyone read your writing.
I hear from quite a few young and/or new authors who are experiencing anxiety about sharing their writing. Although most of us want to be read at some point, the writing itself often starts as a deeply personal exercise, sometimes not so far off from writing a dream journal. The characters and story scenarios we envision can often feel liked veiled references to our innermost selves.
Add to that the fact that writing and storytelling are complex skills that usually take years to fully develop, and we all fear looking like fools for sharing our burgeoning talents before we’re quite certain they’re up to snuff. Then there are the unfortunate experiences when we do drudge up the courage to share our stories with someone, only to have our vulnerability met with indifference or even soul-withering criticism.
And yet, for most of us the idea of never sharing our writing is almost more scary than facing down the world’s critiques.
5 Steps to Overcome Being Afraid to Let Anyone Read Your Writing
At some point most of us just have to take the jump and surrender our early writings to a reader or two. From there, we hopefully get enough encouragement to keep going through the inevitable barrage of blistering comments (well-meaning or not), which will slowly thicken our skins and help us confront our storytelling weaknesses on the way to writing better and better stories.
If you feel yourself preparing for that jump—or if you know of a young writer who is—here are a few steps you can take to help set yourself up for a successful and heartening debut.
Step 1: Listen to Your Fears, Acknowledge Them, Understand Them
Fear is one of the most potent feelings humans experience. It’s a warning system, designed fundamentally to keep us alive. And part of staying alive is communicating our worth to other humans while simultaneously either signaling that we’re no threat to them or we’re such a big threat that they better stand down for their own safety.
Writing, especially writing a story, can seems relatively harmless, but it is still a communication with our fellow humans. Even though few of us are likely to come to actual harm from our writing these days, we are still in touch with the deep primal self that fears offending others or devaluing ourselves in their eyes.
It’s important to realize this. Your fears are not bad, or even irrational per se. They exist for a reason—to guide you to the safest and most life-protecting choices. But fears are also not prophecies. Just because you’re afraid of something does not mean that thing is actually a threat. Even if it is a threat, your best course of action won’t always (or even often) be avoidance.