This semester has been an exercise in “putting myself out there” in terms of my writing. Last Saturday, I read one of my short stories aloud for an audience. My whole family drove out to listen to me. I’m not usually one for public speaking, so this was a rather big deal for them. My dad commented that he didn’t think he had heard me read since he and I would read “Harry Potter” together when I was in first grade. (This is not strictly true. In fifth grade, I read my D.A.R.E. essay about saying no to drugs for an audience of elementary school kids and a few parents. It was a truly moving piece, if I may say so.)

Reading my own work in front of people was a gratifying and terrifying experience — terrifying because I mostly enjoy writing by virtue of it not being public speaking. I tend to be a very high-anxiety individual, so the terror was something I expected. I was surprised, however, to feel so truly grateful for the opportunity to share my writing with people who normally would never read it.

Writing these columns has been like that, too. This is the first time I’ve had writing of mine out in a public space with my name attached to it. Like speaking in front of an audience, there’s terror in this, too. It’s a bit like sending your children out into the world to fend for themselves, some better equipped to do so than others. The ones with clearer arguments can fend for themselves well enough, but the weaker ones don’t do so well. I learned this the hard way when my first column came out and the first comment on it said it was “disheartening” to see a newspaper give it space.

But I tried again, mostly because I didn’t have a choice. I shared my opinions on current events and then I started sharing things about myself. The Michigan Daily has been very generous in allowing me to share some very personal details about my life, and it has turned out to be extremely rewarding for me. I wrote a column about recovering from major depression that resulted in a slew of e-mails in my inbox from students thanking me for writing. It’s heartening to have your own experiences resonate with others — that’s what writing these columns has done for me.

The University has some really cool forums for self-expression if you’re looking out for them. Sometimes it’s public readings or student publications, but in my four years here I’ve also been to all kinds of art shows, musical ensembles, stage performances and film productions. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to share something you’ve made with others, college might be a good time to try it. It’s horrible and incredible and I highly recommend it.

Sydney Hartle can be reached at hartles@umich.edu.

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