I don’t understand people who “write for themselves.”

I can pinpoint the moment that I realized I needed an audience to be whole. It was sophomore year. I was wearing a black headband and an unbecoming beige black and green striped shirt. I stood at the pulpit of the school chapel and read for Week of Prayer, a story I’d written, prefaced with a funny essay about how much I hated public speaking.

They laughed. Those seniors, and popular kids, and EVERYBODY. They listened to me. Theyrushed the dais when I was done to congratulate me and touch me and smile at me. The other speakers for Week of Prayer were genuinely pissed at me for changing what was supposed to be an awkward, teenage sermon into a stand up routine. I’m not kidding when I say (once the other speakers got over it) everyone at that damn school liked me after that, even though I was weird.

I had justified my weirdness. Justified my existence.

Writers don’t have happy childhoods! Writers don’t fit in! Writers need love and approval and validation! That’s why we don’t put what we write under our mattresses. It’s why we send out query after query and get “rejected” or “accepted,” the bigger the publication the better!

I published my first article for Mental Floss last week. My first time in a publication that large. I wrote funny, snappy. I was proud of the piece. I checked the hit counter every hour that first day. It progressed by thousands, Facebook posts, Tweets, retweets, Stumbleupon, Reddit. Thousands of people read what I’d written.

With each click I scooted an inch further away from my worst self. An iota apart from the girl who said the wrong stuff and wore the stupid clothes and couldn’t make friends because her first impression was so wrong. No, that’s not right. I was still her, but she was transforming. Her stupid jokes were turning esoteric. Her ill-timed blurts were becoming profoundly honest. Her hair and clothing style was becoming…”well…she’s a writer…” forgivable and eccentric.

Chubby, frumpy, short, and dressed like a weirdo? WHO CARES! She’s frickin’ Anne Rice!!

That’s all I’ve ever wanted. For me, being a “real” writer is the difference between being almost nothing, and being okay. I don’t have to change myself, all my flaws just suddenly become acceptable.

Those of you who write “for yourselves,” ….I have no idea how you do that. Why you do that. I guess I understand keeping a diary, a place to smear out all the emotions that have no place in your real life, but writing stories and poems and such for no audience? What drives you? Maybe it’s the judgement you want no part of; no one telling you your heart on paper isn’t good enough.

My heart was fine, I knew. But everyone else had to agree before I could be ok.

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