I gained a new follower a few days ago. Normally, this would be a cause for jubilation. But this time, I felt anxiety. The new follower is someone I know slightly. So what? I have lots of followers I know personally (and many lovely people I’ve met only online.) Why should knowing that this particular person will be reading what I write be any more daunting than any other reader? I haven’t figured it out yet. But I do realize it’s one of those cases of self-consciousness that results from self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-censorship: exactly those icky feelings that so often get in the way of our work. That ol’ debbil, our inner critic, has struck when I least expected it. My blog was the one place where I felt comfortable sharing experiences about the writing life, insights, new literary finds. What do I do now? The only answer, as with all my work, is bravery. We all know it takes guts to keep sending out our work to faceless editors, busy agents, even sharing it with our critique partners or groups. Yet, it’s as essential to our work as any other skill.
Coincidentally, I picked up a book at Vroman’s the other day, Fortune Favors the Brave: 100 Courageous Quotations. Turns out there’re lots of quotes in here that apply. I like this one attributed to Stonewall Jackson: “Never take counsel of your fears.” I don’t know anyone who is so arrogant or naïve as to not worry about how his or her work will be received. Yet, we send out our work anyway. Because of that, we can all claim to be brave. Another quote in the book, from Mark Twain, states, “To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one only essential thing.”