How I overcame fears of sharing my written work

A student describes her fear of criticism and how she is working to overcome it.

Allyson Tharp / The Temple News

I’ve been a writer with dreams of being an author for almost all of my life, but I had one obstacle blocking me — I was terrified of sharing the stories I’d written. Until four or five months ago, I hadn’t shared my creative and academic writing with my friends.  

Writing was so key to who I was that the possibility of someone telling me my work wasn’t good enough meant that I wasn’t good enough as a person. 

I faced my fear for the first time in my AP Language Composition class. I was mortified when my teacher informed the class that we’d be doing in-person workshops on our essays. The workshops would be a place for students to either praise each other’s work or make them regret ever signing up for the class. 

Most of the essays required us to open up about our lives and feelings, but I knew that some classmates would see this as an opportunity to insult each other in the form of critiques and comments. One essay I wrote centered around the topic of identity, which was personal for me because I was 16 and extremely unsure of myself.  

One by one, students shared their critiques: one positive comment, one place for improvement and one grammatical fix. A girl in my class decided to be condescending about how I’d chosen to write about my identity by saying it was uninteresting and boring. My face turned red in front of the class and hearing her criticism made me question a lot about my ability and myself. 

I wanted to give up because my fears of sharing my work were reinforced through that interaction alone. However, my parents advised me to continue writing because I’d been doing it for so long and I loved it. With their encouragement, I chose a major I thought to be a perfect balance between my love for writing and my desire to remain emotionally closed off: journalism. 

I thought that journalism was only reporting on the news, which made me feel like no one would judge my personal writing. In reality, it was so much broader than I could’ve imagined. It could be writing about sports, art or entertainment, all things that I loved.  

I’d written for The Temple News’ News section for a couple of months before my friend Amna recommended I write for Opinion, as I’d been wanting more creative freedom in my stories. When I started freelancing for the Opinion section, I wasn’t sure of what I was getting into. I told myself that being afraid wouldn’t get me any further in my career, let alone my life. 

I had an ultimate showdown with myself when it came to one of my first essays. It was about what womanhood meant to me, and as a queer person, I saw this as an opportunity to discuss how my queerness impacted my experience as a woman growing up, but it required me to out myself to my family.  

I remember calling my best friend and asking her what I should do about the article. I wanted to publish it because I was so tired of living two separate lives at home and at school. She told me that not everyone is going to like what I write about, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t good at writing.  

She helped me realize almost all my doubts about my writing were self-induced; I was my biggest critic. Sharing my work scared me, but not accomplishing my dreams or getting older knowing that I never even tried scared me more.   

I still consider my work to be incredibly reflective of who I am and what I feel. Now when I share what I write, I no longer worry about the worst-case scenarios. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to connect with people who relate to what I write, and a chance to learn about others if they don’t relate to the material. 

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