I'm reading a bunch of non-fiction stories a friend of mine gave me to read. I've been sitting on it for months now, much to my embarrassment, and every once in a while, she'd ask me if I've read them yet.
Truth be told, it makes me a pretty lousy friend that I've dragged my feet in reading them, and I'm direct enough to admit that to her. She laughs it off, but in her questioning she betrays a bit of hurt over it. I can't blame her. I remember what it's like, cautiously awaiting the moment when I'd hear the opinions of the people I respected who were given a copy of a poem or story I had written.
One reason it took a while for me to get to her stories was a fear they wouldn't be good and having to lie about it. My friend is pretty smart and knows it. This combination can produce self-conscious writing or writing suffering of egoism. If I encountered that kind of writing, the friendship would be in jeopardy and I didn't want to deal with any of that.
When I stopped writing, it was for a combination of many reasons, one of which was the isolation of the activity. I didn't want to continue to engage in activities that necessitated being alone. But, sitting here in the park with her stories spread out around my towel, I remembered: Writing is meant to be shared and enjoyed. It is a piece of you given to others, something internal made external. I've been so concerned in indulging myself further in isolation I've all but abandoned writing, but I've forgotten the vulnerability, beauty and bravery involved when you first share your work and how self-expression by its very nature requires someone to express to.
And, that was the other reason I was taking so long. She wanted me to see her and to know her and, because these stories were non-fiction and about her, what if I didn't like her?
I had nothing to worry about as her stories were well written, smart and enjoyable to read. I loved them and it reminded me of why were friends in the first place (I should have trusted my taste in friends). I cannot wait for her to return home from vacation and give her a hug and tell her how much I love her and her stories.
Something else came out of this experience reading her stories in the park, alone, on the fourth of July surrounded by crowds of people picnicking and enjoying games and food: perhaps I can cut myself some slack about being too isolated, forgive myself for being a bit of a loner, write some more, and remember that the act of sharing my writing is an act of sharing my self.