How I conquered my fears and began to thrive
Writing for public consumption is terrifying. I started sharing my pieces online two months ago, and for a reasonably confident woman, it has been a humbling time. While the feedback I have gotten has been positive, pressing the ‘Publish’ button for the first time was both a daunting and exhilarating experience. Sharing my work with others is a new reality for me. Before I published my first story, I had to overcome numerous insecurities that were centered around the prospect that people would have the opportunity to either enjoy my work, to be indifferent to it, or to criticize it.
For years, I procrastinated and busied myself with everything else in my life except writing, then finally, in 2020, I decided it was time. I was done waiting to find the courage — courage I already had — to start writing. I was done waiting to start living out a dream that was becoming a daily haunt. I didn’t have all the answers, I didn’t have a strategy, and I didn’t think I had the tools I needed to write, but it was time to bite the bullet and jump in — so I did.
Despite my newly discovered resolve, I had to ask myself several questions, and I knew that how I answered would be instrumental to my writing success. Here are a few of them below — asked and answered.
What should I write about?
I knew right away that I wanted to write about my personal experiences — this is how I have always connected with people. My goal was to build a connection with my readers — similar to the trusting and nurturing relationship I had developed with my most trusted friendships. Furthermore, I am an expert on my life, and writing what I know is still my go-to writing trope.
While I always knew that I would share my personal stories, I was worried that readers wouldn’t connect with my experiences and my point of view — that my stories wouldn’t convey the message I wanted to send. Furthermore, I was concerned that my stories would be excluding to others and that many wouldn’t be able to relate. In the end, after numerous internal discussions, I decided to just write what felt right. My first major article about dating as a Black Woman in Budapest is the most read article I have published to date, and in that article, I poured my heart out, and I was surprised that I was able to get so personal. In the end, writing about my own experiences has been liberating and therapeutic.
How much should I share?
I have always had a paradoxical struggle with visibility. With my writing, it was no different — on the one hand, I wanted my work to be seen and reviewed by the populous, and on the other hand, I wanted to publish a piece and immediately distance myself from it, safely ensconced from acknowledgment or judgment.
In choosing to publish, I had to confront my fears around visibility. My stories were in the stratosphere, and I actively promoted them on my social media platforms. At the same time, I did my best to ensure that certain friends and family never crossed paths with some of my pieces. I was a walking contradiction. I needed to reconcile this irrational fear.
To begin, I had to decide how much of myself I wanted to share, and I had to make a decision that I could live with. I did not want to live in a perpetual state of regret, so I prepared myself for the possibility that anyone (including certain friends and family) could stumble across one of my stories on the internet. I also took it one step at a time — I started sharing my stories with certain people in my life who I knew would not particularly understand why I would choose to share such personal details of my life. I did it, not because I wanted to gain their approval, but because I decided to stop seeking approval outside of myself. Instead of fearing that they would stumble across a particular story, I just shared it with them, and it put my mind at ease. This was liberating, and once I learned to identify what I was willing to share — I dived in.
How will my writing affect my professional life?
Separating my writing from my professional life was probably one of my biggest worries. What if one of my colleagues or direct reports stumbled across one of my pieces? Would the Organization I worked for have any issues with my published pieces — would they hinder any advancement opportunities? To help mitigate my worries, I chose to write under a pen name.
I wanted to ensure that I kept a strategic distance between my writing persona and my professional persona. Again, it is not about hiding — but merely putting distance between the job that pays me and the one that nourishes my soul. What I mean to say is that for now, writing is my hobby, my therapy, and my peace of mind. My 9–5 keeps the lights on and has afforded me all the beautiful experiences that aides my writing.
How do I responsibly include my friends and family in my writing?
I haven’t yet written any stories that include my friends and family. I will eventually, and I recognize that I need to learn how to do this respectfully and responsibly. A few weeks ago, I approached a friend about writing an article that would center around an experience she had shared with me. I explained to her that I wouldn’t identify her and that I would be writing about how I processed the information she had shared. She gave me the go-ahead, but I ultimately decided not to write the story — it was just not the appropriate time. Although I am not sure if I will ever revisit the topic — which I know would be riveting read — I listened to my gut. It didn’t feel right.
When writing about friends and family, it is crucial to run your idea by them and get their feedback. Even if you are writing a story about your reaction to their experience, it is essential to involve them from the beginning. I have said it before in a previous piece — when a writer chooses to tell a story that is not their own, it must be done with care, consideration, and judiciousness.
Is my writing good enough?
I have always enjoyed writing and have received encouragement and positive feedback from my friends and family. However, I have been rejected numerous times. Before I published my first major piece, I pitched it to a few publications and editors and was denied. Of course, I was disappointed, but I was undeterred. I decided to publish it on my own. To my shock, it was curated by Medium (yippee), and it has been well-received by friends, family, and strangers alike.
I realize that all writers get anxious and are sensitive about their work — I don’t expect this to change. This is not the end of the journey for me — I am determined to make writing a more significant part of my life, and while I know that there is room for improvement, I know it will come as long as I continue to write and hone my skills. My articles will get rejected, they will get accepted, and sometimes I will publish them on my own — whatever happens, I have to remember to trust myself, not to get discouraged, and to remember that I am good enough.
To summarize — to conquer my fears about sharing my work with an audience, I had to ask myself some tough questions. It took me a while to not just find the answers but to believe in them.
1. I learned that I enjoy writing about my personal experiences and the challenges I encounter. In essence, it not only allows readers to connect with my voice, but it is therapeutic.
2. I write about the details of my life that, at times, can be challenging to share, but I have permitted myself to be vulnerable and to have no regrets about what I choose to share.
3. I am not hiding my work, but writing is not yet my profession so, for now, I keep a comfortable distance between my writing persona and my professional persona.
4. Writing about friends and families has to be done with care, consideration, and judiciousness
5. Finally, I have come to the point where I believe that my work is good enough. This is an essential realization. Without this belief, it would be difficult to persist with passion and confidence. Believing in myself has allowed me to settle into a productive writing rhythm that is both challenging and enjoyable.