Some of my favourite times at Douglas College have been in the Creative Writing department. The wonderful and patient instructors spent hours explaining the mechanics of storytelling to me, and never made me feel like my work was stupid (not even the time I submitted a sonnet exalting my great love for Diet Coke). I love creative writing, and was lucky enough to have some of my stories and poems selected for the annual Pearls anthologies of student writing over the years. I took this as a great honour, and didn’t really think too much of it.
Then, this year, I learned that having my work published sometimes means that people are actually reading it. And thinking about it. And, most likely, criticizing it. It started a few weeks ago, when a friend who is currently taking a fiction class mentioned in passing that she read one of my stories for class. “Uh, some of the guys didn’t like the stuff about tampons,” she said. I thought back to the story in question: it was a violent, angry story that I’d written during a particularly dark time in my life. Now that that time had passed for me, it felt surreal to think about a classroom of youngsters reliving and analyzing my anxiety in print.
Last week, another friend texted me to tell me that her class was reading a poem I’d written in her intro poetry class. Poetry is a form of expression that I hold possessively close—what if the class hated it? What if they Googled me and looked at my other work and mocked me? What if they set up a Tumblr to ridicule how bad of a poet I am?
In the end, I realized that it’s highly unlikely that anyone will take more than a few minutes to consider my work—reading it was, after all, just a class assignment. Instead of freaking out, I should be excited that the words I’d slaved over would be read once more. Also, I’ll be sure to be more open and less critical when reading other people’s work: I mean, it’s possible that even Margaret Atwood sits at home worrying about what people think about her writing, too… right?