I have a friend who I sometimes go walking with. We live on the side of a mountain, so I guess “hiking” would be more accurate. We take turns pushing her 90-pound stroller and chat between heavy breaths. Well, one day, this friend and I were talking about the launch of my book, and she made a comment that has been floating around in my mind ever since. She said (and I paraphrase), “I can see that you’re the kind of person who likes to hide behind your words.”
I knew that she was just referring to my quiet personality, so I just sort of nodded and moved on to a new topic. But later, after I went home, her statement stuck with me like a patch of stickweed. I thought about it for days. Is that what I did? Did I hide behind my words? Did I use the written word to build a wall around myself, to keep me hidden from others, to avoid human interaction? The more I thought about it, the more I recognized just how incorrect her statement was.
I don’t think my friend meant to insult me. In fact she’s a very nice person and is still my good friend. But I think that she misunderstands something about writers. We don’t ever hide behind our words.
Words aren’t bricks. We can’t stack them and build a wall. We can’t hide behind them because they come from inside of us. When we writers share our words, we are never more exposed or vulnerable. We’re opening ourselves up and saying, look what’s inside. Look at the things I care about, and the things I struggle with, and the things I fear and hope for. Our words open the door to our hearts, inviting readers inside.
Some readers come in and have a cup of tea, then quietly leave. Some wrap their arms around us and cry with us. And some readers bring in a keg and trash the place, leaving us to patch up the walls.
So you see, when we share our writing, there really is nowhere to hide. We risk our self-confidence and our very name in the hope that someone, somewhere will gain something from the words that have spilled from our heart onto the page.