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I have a confession to make.

For a long time (like, years), I was bad at sharing my work. Really, really bad.

How bad? By the time I was sixteen, I had three (admittedly subpar) novels under my belt, and my darling mother, the all-star cheerleader who has always rooted for me and my writing, had read none of them. Zilch. Not a word.

That was also the year I decided to apply to the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. (Side note: If you’re a high schooler, apply. Go. Have the time of your life.) The idea that qualified, scholarly, literary people would be reading my application story was nothing short of horrifying. I was so paralyzed I wondered if I should even bother applying. In the end, I did (this is the part where I give another plug to my mom—Thanks, Mom!), and despite my nerves, I was accepted. The program itself, however, involved even more of other people reading my work. Apparently, that’s how workshops go. I was embarrassed and anxious and scared.

What if all these people find out the truth? What if they learn I’m not some silver-tongued prodigy, but a simple teenage girl who learned to write by rereading Harry Potter until her eyes ached?

Shockingly, I was not attacked. I was not accosted for my self-proclaimed lack of skill. Somehow, magically, against all odds, the other people in my workshop were—gasp!—nice. They were also other teenagers. Some, granted, had more talent and experience than others, but we were all still learning. That’s why we were there. And they didn’t even begin to tear down my confidence. On the contrary, they helped build it up!

After that point, I began to ease into the territory of sharing my work. I never minded posting things online, but I’d always struggled letting friends or family, people closer to me than the screen of a laptop, take a look at my stories. This is something that’s inherently easier for some of us than others. I was always an intensely private person, scared of getting hurt, scared of letting anyone get a peek into my subconscious. I was also terrified someone would read my writing and be so unimpressed that they dismissed my dreams of author-dom.

And it’s taken me a while to get to this conclusion, but it’s a lovely one to reach: It doesn’t matter what they think.

Sure, it would be nice if everyone liked your work. But that’s simply not going to happen.

Sure, it would be easier to keep your stories hidden away in a secret file folder on your computer, like I did all through high school. But how does one become a published author with that attitude?

It’s scary letting someone else see that much of you. A whole book’s worth of your thoughts and characters. Sometimes, the reactions you get won’t be particularly fun ones. Some people just won’t like what you wrote. Other people might thank you for writing them in as the handsome, charismatic love interest, and say it with a completely straight face.

But then there are the people who are going to love it. And yes, there will be people who love what you’re writing. And they will get so excited about your story. They will get so excited about the fact that all of this came out of your imagination. They will work with you to chisel your story into something beautiful and polished, and shine it until it’s the best it can be.

I want to give a virtual hug to all those people.

Thank you for making it that much easier to share my work.