I've been a closet writer for years. My love of the written word began with Dr. Seuss, and from the time I possessed a library card, I took out the maximum number of books every time I went. I read like an addict; like Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, books became my friends. Being an introverted child who yearned for a bigger and grander life, books offered a glimpse into the possibilities beyond my immediate experience. I even wanted to be a librarian so I would always be surrounded by books.
I identified with offbeat heroines and protagonists who were flawed and lovely in their imperfections and less than ideal home situations. Francie and Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time were underdogs that I cared about. I identified with them. I wanted them to come out triumphant and happy. Not only did they accomplish their happy endings, they didn't compromise who they were at the core to get there.
My love of reading spurred me to create my own stories and worlds. I wrote stories and poems and plays, none of which ever saw the light of day. I was my own worst critic. I would look at a piece and think, "This is too (fill in the blank with your choice of negative judgment)." I self-sabotaged opportunities to contribute to short story anthologies, magazine columns and collections of personal experiences. I convinced myself that I'd rather experience life than write about what I experienced. I told myself that I was a terrible note taker (I really am; I rely on memory far too much) and an even worse documentarian.
I was so insecure about my writing abilities that I didn't pursue any form of writing as a career path. I ended up working in creative industries instead, but I never gave up the idea of being a writer. It's a skill that accompanies you through your life; its effectiveness is not restricted by age, gender or ethnicity. We all have stories -- meaningful ones -- and writing is one way to convey them. Through our stories, we're seeking to communicate and to forge connections with others, a natural human trait.
Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, the advent of publicly posting streams of consciousness through tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogs has increased my comfort level with airing my thoughts openly and inuring myself against snarky comments. I tested the Internet waters by keeping an infrequently updated blog for a while, not because I wanted to amass thousands of avid readers, but because I was ready to break out of my scared little self and sally forth bravely. Well, I thought, what was I so afraid of? I have stories that I want to share. Why should I be ashamed of wanting to express myself?
Fast forward to this year: One of my leaders invited me to attend a conference hosted by a professional business women's group. Arianna Huffington was a keynote speaker; she was warm, anecdotal and seemingly approachable. At the end of her speech, she told the crowd of thousands to email her with our stories and provided her email address. I was stunned. In the back of my mind, I made a note to email her. But I wasn't serious until I attended one of the conference sessions, and the woman leading it told us that, even though Arianna Huffington had given out her email address and exhorted all of us to write to her, only one percent of us would actually follow through.
When someone tells me a statistic like that, I do whatever I can to be part of the minority. I've known of Arianna since her days of "Left, Right, and Center", a radio show in Los Angeles. Based on my past history of reticence and, frankly, inaction, odds were that I would never send any email, not even a "thank you, you were inspiring" email.
It took me a month of thinking about what my story was, and then I wrote something in one night. I put it in an email, hit send and moved on. Imagine my surprise when I heard from her.
And now, here I am. I've gotten rid of one fear, and it feels good.