I have been writing since I was very young. The first story I remember writing was about a mouse named Mousy. My sister co-authored. My mother wrote it down because we barely knew how to spell our names at the time. We used crayon to illustrate Mousy’s adventures and then we stapled the pages together using a piece of wallpaper from a sample book as the cover. This became the first in a series of stories about Mousy. Mousy met a cat. Mousy went to the moon. Mousy did all sorts of other things I can’t remember.
Other stories followed after Mousy. First they were simple pages written in pencil and illustrated in crayon and stapled together between those wallpaper covers. When my parents got a computer for family use, they bought a program called Storybook Weaver so my sister and I could spend hours typing out stories and illustrating them with clip art.
I’ve always been writing stories. Very rarely do I share them. In high school I needed to pick an elective class to fill in an open time-slot. Creative Writing was one of the choices, but nope, I couldn’t do it. The thought of sharing my stories and being critiqued by my classmates sent my heart racing. Essays, articles, research papers are easy to send out into the world, but stories are personal and I’m afraid to let go.
I did a writing workshop two years ago. It took place in a Buddhist Monastery and we would write from a prompt for 10-15 minutes and then each read our pieces aloud. I had never read my work aloud; not to others, not to myself. I skipped the first round of sharing, unable to convince myself that what I’d just written in 15 minutes was good enough for others to hear. At this workshop we didn’t critique. We just listened and when we made comments they were positive and did not reflect on the author, but on the listener. “I liked the description of…” “I felt moved by…”
I spent the day at the Buddhist Monastery writing, listening, meditating, and eating a vegan lunch. I feel very comfortable in a hippy settings like this, and I think the peace of the day allowed me to take the leap. By the end of the day I was reading my work aloud whether I thought it was good enough or not. It was a bit of a breakthrough for me.
Since then I have been more willing to share, but it still feels like a bit of a leap each time. So I’ve been reading my work aloud as an exercise. It feels performative and I feel stupid speaking my story out to an empty room. So I read them to my cat. He has no critique for me, but he has no praise either. Obviously not the best audience. Still, it’s a start.