A great steeling of nerves

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. (Though I did have a brief flirtation with drawing when I was very small, mostly I remember seeing those drawings when I was older.) It's always been a part of my identity, what I'm good at - but the majority of this writing is contained within the sometimes-secret walls of journal covers. I think this is why I'm so shy about my fiction, because I am used to keeping my extracurricular words mostly to myself.

The Diary of Anne Frank was one of my favorite books circa fourth grade (which also happens to be about when I got my first journal, a gift from my mother), and from that I graduated to Anaïs Nin - somewhere between Anne and Anaïs I became convinced that diary-keeping was itself an art form. (I also ate up books like this as a child.) Sometimes, in fact, I become quite convinced it is the only thing of value I have produced, but then I also recall, as Henry Miller told dear old Anaïs, "All diary-writing is a disease." The fact is, though, even when - despite all my best intentions - I shirk on writing fiction, I loyally write in my black-covered Moleskine. It takes writing events down to fully realize them in my life, and without doing so, I go a little crazy. Actually living always takes priority, but without writing it down, it's meaningless to me.

Diaries are an interesting thing, supposedly secret - because I convinced myself at an early age that they too could be art, I also had a reader besides myself at the back of my head to write for. I still balked at the idea of, say, my parents reading what I wrote in those little books, but eventually my readership did expand: a few friends, at first; later, a boy I was smooching implored me to either read him something or let him read it on a train ride; and when Becca got back from Prague, we supplemented our catching-up with excerpts from our journals. Writers have the peculiar idea that what they have to say deserves to be heard, and diary-writers are no different, in most cases.

So, despite my decade-plus of writing, showing my fiction requires a great steeling of nerves, is revolutionary. Writing has been so tied up in my personality, in who I am, and so opening it up for any kind of criticism (constructive or otherwise) makes me seize up with anxiety. I haven't been able to distance myself enough to realize that my writing and I are not synonymous, that criticism of my writing is not a dig at me. It's something I'm working on.

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