Ever since I posted my first round story for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014, I’ve been a bit of a mess–anxious, queasy, stressed. Perhaps you find this reaction surprising–maybe even a little unbelievable–because I’ve always acted like sharing my work with you is no big deal. But, to be honest, it terrifies me.
Last week, when I hit the “publish” button on my blog to post Inevitable, I had a moment of pure panic. A million “what if” questions flew through my mind: What if people hate it? What if people laugh at me? What if this is the stupidest story I’ve ever written? What if I didn’t push myself hard enough? What if I offend someone by accident? What if. What if. What if…
It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m sharing my story with a friend, a beta reader, or a complete stranger, I’m always petrified I’ll be judged, ridiculed, and/or ripped apart. The minute I put a story on my blog, or I hand chapters of my manuscript over to a beta reader, I experience a sharp twinge of anxiety, and my heart does a pitter-patter–stutter–halt!–boom-boom-boom! dance.
You’d think this fear would go away after years of sharing my work with others, but it hasn’t. I always experience a sickening sensation, followed by a silent chant of, “Oh God, oh God, oh God…”
Part of my fear stems from the worry people will read my work and think I’m someone I’m not. Let’s face it, many of my stories are on the darker side: Tragic. Morbid. Whacked out! I’m so scared people will read them and think, “Wowza, this chick is messed up!” Or, “Poor thing, she must have a terrible life.” Or, “Yeesh, this writer scares me.”
And, who knows? Maybe people do think those things about me? Maybe people see me as this:
When, in reality, I’m like this:
The only thing I can do to manage this particular fear is to explain to people my writing process. I like to tell them, “When I write, I’m not there. I’m pushed into a cage and locked up while my characters hijack the story. They’re the ones writing it, not me.”
Hmm, maybe I am a little crazy–ha!
But it’s the truth. When I sit down to write, I check “Jenna” at the door and let my characters orchestrate the plot. They tell me how the story is “supposed to go”. I do my best not to interfere as the outsider.
For example, when I started writing my short story, Chasing Monsters, I planned on telling a story about a little boy who’d witnessed a murder in the forest. But when I arrived at the murder scene, my characters said, “Um, no. That’s not going to happen. This is!” And they yanked the plot out of my hands and twisted it into something completely different and unexpected…It was horrible and beyond terrifying, and I did not want to write it.
I think I almost threw up when I posted Chasing Monsters on my blog. If there was ever a story people were going to judge me for, it was that one. Thankfully, nobody did–at least not to my face.
Truthfully, I’ve never been outright slammed for any of my stories. Of course, that’s not to say I’ve never had negative reviews, or had my feelings hurt by less than tactful individuals. Just this past weekend, I had someone send me feedback for Inevitable. They point blank said, “I didn’t like it at all.”
Yeah, that one hurt. But it’s okay. One of the things I’ve learned from sharing my work is not everyone will be a fan. Even if I have pure gold on my hands, someone out there will think it stinks. The best thing I can do is move on and let it go.
…Easier said than done, right?
The bottom line is I will always be afraid of sharing my work. Even if I become a New York Times bestselling author, I’ll struggle with the knowledge there are people out there reading my work and judging me in one way or another. And there will always be critics and, well, insensitive meanies who will tell me, “I didn’t like it at all.”.
But you know what? I can’t let my fears stop me. Even if I have an anxiety attack every time I press the “publish” button on my blog, or sit and stare at my email until my beta readers return with their feedback about my manuscript, I need to be willing to share my work. I need to suck it up and take the terrifying plunge.
If I don’t, how else will I discover my strengths and weaknesses? How else will I become the best writer I can be? There’s only so much I can learn on my own. Without constructive criticism from a variety of sources (friends, family, strangers, bloggers, other writers, etc.) I’ll never reach the next level.
And, really, I need to get used to people reading my stories if I want to be a published author. That’s kind of the point of all of this, isn’t it?
So, how about you? Do you fear others reading your stories? If so, why?
What are you afraid of, dear writer?
Fear of Writing – 3 secrets of writer’s block
11 thoughts on “Confession: I Fear Sharing My Stories”
If you ever overcome the fear . . . begin to worry. In comfort lies a slip in your pushing your boundaries and exploring.
LikeLiked by 1 person
After a certain point, imho, feedback becomes a distraction and a detriment to writing, especially in a contest environment. My favorite story of yours is your first, Chasing Monsters. The work that comes after Chasing Monsters is excellent but it seems like part of your attention is on the feedback to come, as if there is a jury lined up around your writing desk nitpicking before you even finish. If so, time to flush. Your voice is golden and while input is good, it can detract.
I’ve actually gotten better and better about NOT listening to everything people have to say when critiquing my stories. Before these NYC Midnight Challenges, I used to take every little tidbit to heart. Now I’ve learned that while a lot of feedback is golden, there’s also a lot that’s useless, haha.
“Chasing Monsters” is probably my favorite too. I also like the horror I wrote during last fall’s Flash Fiction, “Why”. I think I might combine the two for a novel someday…Well, when I’m ready to gut my soul and be a total grump for a couple of years, HAHA!
Thanks for the great advice/kind words, Lynne!
I’m with you on this Jenna and I think most writers will be as well. It doesn’t matter if you are a best selling author or somebody who only pushes that publish button once a month, because we are human, we will all worry what others will think.
My heart sinks when the number of likes or comments for a post do not materialise, but then I think to myself that authors like J.K Rowling went through the same problem, having books rejected. If only one person likes and comments on a post, then I’m happy with it, even if it were to say “I don’t like it” because then I know somebody has taken the time to read it and come back to me with a comment.
Great points, Hugh! I agree with you 100%.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Maybe it’s my age (44), but I am so less anxious about sharing than I used to be. Partly because I’m a better writer than when I started, and partly because I am more confident in general. I don’t use beta readers (although, perhaps I would win more competitions if I did), because quite frankly I don’t trust most people’s opinions, and if they were to suggest a change and I made it, in my mind — it isn’t my story anymore. I never reveal my prompts to anyone, because I’m afraid people will start rattling off plots and premises. I rarely share my submissions on the NYC forum, not because I’m anxious of what people will think, but because I get all butt-hurt if people find flaws. I usually never agree.
I just write stories that I like, and that’s it. If readers find me strange, so be it. I probably am.
HAHA! Love it Tricia. And I applaud your mentality. I honestly only trust a few people as my beta readers, and I only talk to one person about my prompts/ideas for a story. Like you, I don’t want to be bombarded by too many outside opinions. Once I share my story, however, then I welcome all opinions. I might not like them all, but oh well, haha. For me, it helps to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Are you participating in the FFC right now? If so, good luck!
Yeah, I’m terrified of people reading my stuff….which is insane since I want to actually have my stories published! Lol oh well, I just chalk it up to the neurosis of being a writer.
I loved Chasing Monsters! I think you are awesome at Short Stories. I’ve even recommended short story fans to your website and believe me I don’t give out my recommendations easily!
Keep up the good work Jen and the confidence will follow….eventually…I hope. Lol
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ah, thanks Darla! That means a lot to me.
I’ll admit, I’ve gained more confidence through these contests–yet another benefit of participating in them. I mean, at least I can share my stories now. In the past, I used to refuse to let anyone read my work. Baby steps, right?
Yes. Baby steps! That’s my motto 😉