When I was a senior in college I took a "psychology of women" class, that was more like group therapy. It was four hours long, so we had plenty of time to talk. The class began with everyone "checking in," which was supposed to be brief but always went on for about an hour. The class was big, and we all sat in a circle, so it was easy to get carried away.
Anyway, some people would bring short readings to share when they checked in. Someone shared a poem, and I got what I thought was a brilliant idea. I could say I had a reading to share, and recite my Lost Girls poem without saying it was mine! I could get real opinions on something I'd written! After all, if your classmates know your work is yours, they're going to try and be gentle with you (at least, they were in this class).
So, the "check ins" began, and circled around to me, and I was already losing it, even though, I told myself, "no one knows this is mine!"
"I have a reading," I said, and looked down at the poem in front of me. My mouth went completely dry and my heart was pounding loud enough for the whole room to hear. I was probably quiet for a solid minute before forcing myself to begin. That might not sound like a long time, but try pausing that long in a sentence.
I just kept trying to tell myself "they don't know it's yours! Just go!" but it didn't matter. I was freaking out inside the whole time, and when I finished, my plan fell apart. Our professor asked, "who wrote that?" and I couldn't lie.
"I wrote it." Teeny tiny voice that didn't sound like me at all (and I'm a shy introvert, so I don't know how I could get much softer).
"I could tell before you began that it meant something to you," or something. I don't remember what she said. My arms were literally sore the next day because I was tense through the whole lesson (four hours!).
I'd never shared anything before to that many people. I didn't even like reading other people's work out loud, because I was afraid I'd trip over words. When I took creative writing classes, we were allowed to share or pass, and I always passed.
But, the class seemed to like it, and it ended up being remarkably relevant to the subject matter. We had a guest speaker who talked about feeling lost and connecting with others, and our professor told me as the class ended that she was going to have me read my poem again, but we ran out of time. I was very flattered, but there was also no way in hell I could read it again.
I only wish I'd been able to control myself enough to ask for opinions before saying it was mine, but now that I think about it, they probably would only say nice things anyway. That class just had a very calm, peaceful, kind atmosphere.
This is just a fun memory for me, because how can I simultaneously want to be famous for my words yet be that terrified of sharing? Plus, this wasn't my whole world, this was just a short poem, and poems really aren't my thing. I mean, clearly it means something to me, because I am a Lost Girl for life.
In a way, this was step one in overcoming my fear. I still can't be in the same room with someone reading my books, and I still get all flustered when someone talks to me about them, but I'm ready for feedback, and I love hearing it. These words are my light in the darkness, and I'm looking for connection. How can I find it if I'm too afraid to reach out and share? I'll still raise my voice, even in fear. Lost Girls unite!