I have a confession to make. I’m an introvert and I’m not good at sharing. As someone who writes and needs feedback on my work, this is kind of a problem. Let me explain. I never talk about myself to anyone. I never tell my friends anything about my projects, most of them don’t even know I’ve written a book. The ones who do know ask me to read it and I almost always tell them no. And not only no, but absolutely not and I won’t tell you what it’s about either. Yes, I know, I know, I get it. This is a problem.
Three weeks ago I let my friend read part of my book. It happened by accident, I slipped up and mentioned it in conversation. This friend is like a Terminator when she fixates on something. She obliterates anything in her path until she gets what she wants. I knew the minute I accidentally mentioned it that I was done for. And just as I suspected, she hounded me about it relentlessly. She wrote about it in my birthday card, she texted me about it. She called me. She told me she’d stop speaking to me if I didn’t let her read it. Her overwhelming curiosity about this book overpowered my introverted secret keeping insecurity. I gave in out of sheer exasperation.
“You wrote this?” I remember her looking at me in shock. “But this is long. Like it’s an entire book. You said you’d only written a little.”
“Yeah, well…I just forgot to mention it.” Lame excuse.
“You wrote this entire book and never mentioned it? You’ve obviously been working on this a while.” She stared at me, and I’d felt bad. Not just bad, but guilty. Horrible. I still remember the look on her face. Hurt. Like I didn’t trust her enough to say anything. Like I was keeping secrets. Even though that’s not it at all, I feel like screaming. It’s me not you! You’re awesome and you’re my friend. It’s just me. I’m just…weird? Stuck? Confused? I don’t know what it is. What is wrong with me…why am I so bad at sharing?!
This is not the first incident. There have been a string of similar incidents, and they’re increasing as I spend more and more of my day writing. It’s caused a lot of hurt feelings. People think I don’t value them enough to share my work with them, like they’re the only ones not in on the secret. But to be honest, somehow sharing my work is even worse with someone I see every day. I look at them, look at their faces, analyze them. Did they like it? Did they lie and say they liked it to not hurt my feelings? Was that pity in their eyes when they looked at me just now? They just laughed, was it because they were remembering how bad my book was and they couldn’t contain their laughter? On and on in increasingly ridiculous fashion I analyze the family member or friend to death, when in reality they were probably laughing at something on TV or an incident that happened at work that has absolutely nothing to do with my book. Eventually I can’t stand seeing the person anymore. Get away from me with your judgmental eyes! You’re such a jerk! I feel like screaming at them. It’s totally over the top and silly. And the truth is, it’s a really hard habit to break.
When you create something, you infuse a part of yourself into its very core. In everything I write, I leave part of my soul burned into the words on the screen or paper. It’s difficult to show that to someone, to let them judge it, assess it, evaluate it. I know, deep down, that is why we do create. To allow people to enjoy and process and experience what we make in the way that they choose. It’s difficult to relinquish that control, to surrender something you’ve made with love to someone else’s mercy. It’s necessary. It’s imperative. But wow. It’s hard.
I know every writer struggles to some extent with critique, with putting themselves out there and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. I understand negative feedback happens. That’s ok. My friends and family have sometimes given me feedback I haven’t been crazy about when I’ve let them read my writing. It’s been helpful, and it’s been productive for me. Every time I relent and let them see what I’ve written, I’m ultimately happy I did. It’s the getting there that’s hard. For me fear has taken over, and it’s been driving this train for quite a while now. Maybe forever. Somehow, I have to figure out how to get back on track. I don’t really know how to do that. Not yet. But I do know that until I do, this will continue to be a problem for me.
I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to share. I’m going to work on being more open. I’m going to work on trusting. On letting go of the fear, of the obsession and worry surrounding potential judgement. I’m going to put my work into the world for others, just like I hope people continue bringing their work to me. Show me the amazing thing you’ve written or designed with me. I love celebrating other writers’ work and successes. I love cheering on my friends and supporting them in whatever way I can. I know it goes both ways. If someone I cared about withheld their work from me because they thought I would be hurtful towards them about it, I would feel awful. And I don’t want to do that to anyone, anymore.
From now on, I’ve promised myself, things will be different. This year I will let my guard down. I’ll give people the chance to support me, just like I want to support them. This year, I’ll stop keeping so many secrets.