Our stories need readers.
Writing has always been a deeply personal endeavor for me. Long before I ever considered writing for an audience, I wrote for myself. I wrote because I must.
Locked away in my room through tumultuous junior high days, I curled up on my $2.00 yard sale recliner, prayed to the ancient computer gods my tower would blink to life, and utterly lost myself in the white of the page.
I never wrote about myself. Couldn’t touch a diary. But I lived in the spaces of my writing. Woven deeply into my character’s feelings and experiences, I found myself, often in unexpected ways.
I still do.
After years of hiding in my own world, one I dared not breathe of word of to anyone else lest they want to trespass, I became lonely in my writing. My stories yearned for companionship. It began to feel unfinished, as if I couldn’t discern what I’d created until witnessing it through the eyes of others, learning from their interpretations, their experiences.
And that is the beauty of writing. We come together in literature and discover within each other a greater truth than we can create by ourselves.
By the time I decided to pursue publication, I had entrenched myself in my culture of solitary musing. Prying open the hidden chambers of my heart to beta readers took every ounce of loyalty I had to my work. I would rather have kept it to myself, except that it could never be what I wanted if left unshared.
Beta readers were only the beginning.
At some point, I had to stop writing for myself. I had accept that the first draft is for me and the final product is just that. A product. For my audience. I had to sacrifice words that felt like pieces of myself to streamline the story and transform it into something worth reading.
The magic happened after years of writing, editing, rewriting, researching, critiquing, toiling, learning, learning, and learning. It seemed like I had a mess I dared to call a book forever and then all of a sudden I had a story people wanted to read. I had a story that people said they couldn’t put down.
I was found. Seen. And not just me, but the piece of me that evolved into something more. My writing no longer felt merely like my own, but also everyone who had helped me craft it.
Readers drew their own lessons and conclusions, some I could have never imagined. We discussed themes and meanings and beautifully flawed characters.
The little writer in me, the twelve year old girl who hid herself in the empty space of the page, was set free.
I have always loved writing. Now, I love sharing it even more. Without the community of readers and writers, I never would have experienced the joy of creating something bigger than myself.
To all the closet writers, the new writers, the alone writers… persist. The world needs your words. We need you to hone your craft and grow into more than you realize you can be.
Our work is much more beautiful and powerful when shared through the eyes of diverse readers who imprint themselves upon the page and become a part of our story.
So, unleash yourself, girl. Polish up your baby and set her upon the publishing sea.