An open letter to anyone who wants to write

Writing is a deeply personal act. Because of that, it can be absolutely terrifying to share the things you wrote with the world. Forget the world, sharing it with your friends is hard enough. When you decide to share your writing on the internet, you have to accept that a lot of the readers are going to be complete strangers, but what’s scarier is that some of the readers won’t be. All of a sudden this personal information you held onto for years, writing in your journal and nowhere else, is public knowledge.

I get messages from readers every day who are having trouble making that choice. The messages are all the same — How do you deal with revealing personal things to your family? To your co-workers? How do you handle negative comments? What makes you keep writing, even when things get bad?

That fear of negative feedback from strangers and relatives alike tragically keeps us from doing so many things in our life beyond writing. What we wear, say, listen to, and think is all influenced by the overwhelming fear of public ridicule. I’m guilty of it too, but I’m trying to get better. Writing has been part of that healing process.

Getting your story out there despite, and often in spite of, the internet comments is so important. But it won’t be easy. You may get called stupid or a slut or both. They’ll say your story is invalid, label it a “first world problem,” or offer a number of suggestions for how you should have handled a particular situation. They’ll present themselves as experts in the field of you, claiming to know your mind and your life better than you do.They’ll do their best to make you feel talentless and decide never to write again. The best defense you have is this: Never. Stop. Writing. These people don’t know you, and their remarks about who you are as a person should mean nothing to you.

Another thing that can hold you back is a fear of who in your life will read this incredibly personal story, because it’s likely something you’ve never told anyone before. In a time when even your grandparents are on Facebook, are you comfortable sharing your awkward sexual encounters? Is your abusive ex going to read that piece you wrote about him? And are you ready for the fallout if he does? The reason that feedback is worse than that of someone anonymous is that it won’t come in the form of a Facebook comment, but rather in a phone call, text message, or (the worst) a face-to-face conversation. While I don’t think you should censor yourself, necessarily, I do think you should be mindful of the people you’re involving. When you speak about your family, remember that the story you’re telling is not only yours to tell. Would your mom want people to know this thing? And when you’re talking about your own experiences with sex or drugs, consider the outcome. Do you want your parents to find out via a published article online or would you rather brief them on it beforehand? It’s awkward, but it might save an even more awkward encounter later.

When it comes to why I keep writing, it’s both for myself and for the people who enjoy it. For every negative comment, there are 10 positive ones from people who share my feelings or totally get what I’m going through. Maybe I didn’t change their life, but for the few minutes they read my article, I made them feel like they weren’t alone in feeling the way they did. And they did the same for me. If I feel compelled to write something, I have to believe that someone out there is compelled to read it. And you know what? So far, that’s always been true.It’s a pretty amazing feeling.

So if you’re trying to decide whether or not to write, just do it. Your story is unique, because it’s yours. No one else can tell it the way you can, because no one went through it just like you. And if they did, they didn’t process it just like you. So go write something. I, along with many other people, will be so excited to read it.