By Ahtiya Liles
I’ve been writing for a while now (since, like, the fourth grade) – short stories, novels, poems, and now plays. And up until a while ago, I was not a big fan of letting people read my work. It just gave me MAJOR anxiety. The only person I would willingly let read my work is my best friend Addy – and even that unsettled me a little bit.
I was always worried my work wasn’t good enough or that my false sense of “talent” would be destroyed in a single second. My creative writing was for me, and, even though I’ve always wanted to get published, I didn’t want people I knew reading my work. Writing is very, very personal, and it’s easy to get defensive when someone questions it.
With my newfound love and curiosity in terms of directing, I challenged myself. I wrote a play that I fell in love with and had a vision for, so, against my anxiety-ridden judgment, I took the steps to stage it. Not only will I be directing my original play, but I will constantly be taking it apart and piecing it back together over and over again for 7.5 weeks as it is rehearsed and directed.
Throughout the process of writing this play, I have been asking for feedback from my boyfriend Demetrius. Every time he would read a scene or a section over, I would have a mini panic attack and start trying to control my breathing. Super attractive, am I right? The more Demetrius gave me feedback, the more I began to realize that I’m not a complete failure when it comes to writing abilities. I can craft a story and actual characters with dimension and make people laugh and make people angry and make people uncomfortable. Then, I let my friend Jess (who is now my stage manager) read it, and she was actually laughing and saying her favorite parts. And then I sent it to Addy, and she also gave me feedback and was reacting. It was weird!
The real test to how far I could push myself without spontaneously combusting came at the end of the semester, though, after I had cast my show.
I had my first read-through before the semester ended. That was anxiety inducing in ways I didn’t even imagine possible. My play talks about race, interracial couples, and has some moments are definitely cringe-worthy and will make people uncomfortable. I was afraid about how my actors would react to reading those parts for the first time, as well as whether or not I had the right to write such things and put them on a stage. Who am I to make people really uncomfortable? The read-through was great, and I received some great feedback, and I think it was at that moment that I realized that I should no longer be shy about what I write creatively.
I should embrace it.
Everyone should embrace what they write.
And embracing your writing means sharing your writing.
It does. I’m being so serious. Embracing something is having confidence in it, and having confidence means willing to step out of your comfort zone. And isn’t that what writing is in the first place: a way for us, as writers, to step outside of the world we know and create a new one? We have to take it one step, further, though, and break out of the boxes we put ourselves in within our own reality. Writing should be a way to escape, but it should also act as a way to grow.