Do you have any advice on getting over shyness about sharing your writing? I love to write...but the thought of sharing it with people stresses me out. And since I'm in a class that requires me to share it with all 20 of my classmates...well...I'M SUPER STRESSED. Help?
First and foremost, it’s great that you’re in a class, because of course it’ll force you to share your work and you’ll get used to doing it pretty quickly. So even if you do nothing but participate in your class, you’ll probably be fine!
I was often nervous going into new writing classes. I did intro fiction at my original college, so when I took intermediate after transferring to UNC, I was afraid that I would be inferior to the other writers because UNC was a better school with a more respected creative writing program. When I took a memoir class (because I didn’t get into advanced fiction, twice!) I was nervous because my writing wasn’t fiction, it was about my personal life. When I got into honors fiction I was nervous because I’d been able to skip advanced fiction by taking advanced nonfiction (which, unlike advanced fiction, you didn’t have to place into). So basically I was always nervous! But never more than the first time I had to share a piece of writing with a new class. After the first time, it always got easier.
If you’re worried about the quality of your writing versus your classmates’, don’t be. Other young people aren’t taking these classes because they’re already great writers. And I was happily surprised over and over again to find that we were all way more on the same page in terms of skill level than I had expected. Don’t get me wrong—I had a lot of really great writers in all of my classes, and I was very proud to have every one of them as colleagues. But for the most part pretention went right out the window when we all realized that we were coming from the same place and wanted the same thing: to improve.
I’m sure, also, that you’ll have a good professor who will know how to make everyone feel comfortable. Alan Shapiro taught my memoir class and was one of my favorite professors of all time. Everyone started out writing about really trite stuff, but Alan made us all feel so comfortable with one another that halfway through the semester the floodgates opened and people were writing about being raped, having eating disorders, being beaten by family members, their parents dying, using drugs, you name it (it’s crazy how much of this crazy stuff happens to people you’re surrounded by every day!). But we addressed every single piece as just that—a piece of writing. Alan set that example in how we talked about each others’ work and we followed.
The hard thing for me about writing classes was the deadlines. I always hated when I felt like what I’d written was absolute shit but I had to turn it in and share it anyway. And it’s true, some of the stuff I handed in really was shit, haha. But those were always the most useful workshop discussions in class because I had outside minds helping me learn how to take something I hated and turn it into something I might like. As with every creative endeavor, some’s gonna be good, some’s gonna be bad. But I’d be willing to bet that your classmates will be understanding, because they’ll feel that way too.
If you’re absolutely filled with terror before you have to share your first piece, maybe try sending it to a trusted friend first, or even a parent—I always sent stuff to my grandmother because she’d always say something nice no matter what, and boost my confidence. That may sooth your nerves.
But seriously, don’t worry. I promise you’ll get more used to letting people read your writing, and you’ll start to appreciate having other eyes to help you while you develop. Taking writing classes in high school and college improved my writing tenfold. I bet after a few weeks you’ll feel a lot less shy, and really be loving your class!
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