Closet Writers

Remember what they say about looking for red cars? Well, I guess the red car effect is what happened when I decided to take my writing seriously and call myself a writer. Suddenly there were people all around me who were into writing. I discovered a lot of friends who had blogs of their own. I found groups of writers and poets who met often over tea and coffee to discuss their own work and that of others. I discovered people who had published or were on the verge of publishing their own books.

It was as the decision to call myself a writer was the open sesame into a whole new world.

And in this world of writing, I also discovered another group of people, people who wrote, yet never shared what they wrote. The closet writers. And it made me wonder.

I started writing poems as a child and with the lack of inhibition that only a child can have, I shared my poems with anybody and everybody, whether they wanted to hear me or not. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by adults who were kind enough to encourage me and so I felt confident about sharing most of my writing with people around, though it was still only people I knew.

So, I could not understand why people would write, but not want to share it with anyone. I had to unravel this mystery. I asked point blank. The answers varied.

“Are you mad? What will people say? Supposing they don’t like what I have written?”

“What I write is too personal. I don’t want anyone to read it.”

“Do you think anyone will really want to read what I have written?”

I realised this applied to some of my writing too. All of us are in some way closet writers. Not everything we write is meant for the world. In fact every time I tell my friends that I have written something, I am now asked, “For public or private consumption?” Sometimes we write just for ourselves. Just to get things off our chests. Just to feel better.

Then there are things you write which are really good, but sometimes reveal too much of your soul. And you wonder, “Do I want to put that much of myself out in the world? It is okay when one or two close people know about it, but everyone?”

A friend, after she lost her husband, started writing a story based on imaginary conversations she might have had with her husband’s spirit. By the time she finished a year later, she was healed and the story was beautiful, poignant, funny even, but there was too much of her in the story to share with anyone. So it remains in her closet, amidst other memories.

But most people are just plain scared. They don’t think that what they have written is good enough. They don’t believe that what they have is interesting enough for others to want to read. And this fear is real enough.

But let me tell you a secret. A lot of people, who are getting published today, write real crap. They just don’t care. Or they believe they are good enough and go ahead and write in any case. If you care about what you are writing and about what people think about it, I’m willing to bet, you will not be one of those putting out rubbish. So go ahead, take the plunge! You will be better than a lot of people out there!

And as with anything else, you will get better as you write. The more you write, the more get you get criticised, the better your writing gets.

When I decided to get my book of poems, “Who shall I be Today?” published, my daughter warned me that everyone would not love my poems the way she did and that I had to be ready to face negative reviews as well. I told her I was actually looking forward to it, because I needed to know where I stood vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

So if you write, and are just scared of the reactions of the world, it’s okay to be scared. Take baby steps. Share a poem or article or story that you feel is not too personal. Join a forum of other poets or writers, read what others are sharing and then deliberately start writing something for the world.

P.S. I am being selfish in writing this post. I need good stuff to read. So please all you wonderful writers, please, please start sharing! If you want to read more of what I write you can find it at sunitasaldhana.com