When I was a kid there were some mandatory debates in school. I was bright and could research and organize a good argument but I never quite figured out the other secrets to debate: finding holes in someone’s arguments and twisting an opponent's words to create a different meaning. My mind is too closely linked to my heart. I don’t naturally look for the holes in someone’s argument, instead, I am scanning their words for points of connection and commonality between us. This is not the making of a great debater.
In a debate, I would be listening to the other side, thinking “good point” or “I saw that point coming” and then I would review my researched notes for what point I wanted to make next. I would share a new point building a case for my side of the argument. My opponent might try to counter it but sometimes they did that thing I could never quite figure out: they twisted my own words. They didn’t using logic, or research, or facts to counter my argument, they shook my very foundation by undermining my credibility and confidence. I was always caught off guard.
It is much easier when your opponent uses the expected tactic in a confrontation. You can prepare for that. You anticipate it. You are ready. But when your opponent uses your own advance against you, it is hard to foresee and almost impossible to prepare for. Martial arts is a great example. You can often gain the upper hand on your opponent by using their body movements against them. It surprises your opponent and it leaves them scrambling to understand what just happened.
I get a terrible feeling when I think about debates. Fear doesn’t describe it well enough. It is more like the feeling you have when you are investigating an odd noise coming from the basement. It is the tingle that runs up your spine coupled with intense curiosity and heightened awareness. You head down the stairs and flick on the light and you just don’t know what to prepare for. Every nerve is on end ready to fire if it is needed.
Releasing my writing out into the world feels exactly like that. There is no way to prepare for the things people might react to. Will they twist my words? Will they find a weakness that I didn’t see coming? Will they use it against me?
Authors need to have thick skin and not "care what other people think.” Except writers and artists that make art in the public domain invite the cares of others, otherwise they would keep their work behind closed doors. Sure, I can choose to not read any reviews or answer any scathing emails but that doesn’t change the feeling just before you hit publish.
Releasing my work into the world is my own horror film. I am peering into the dark with my heart pounding in my ears and I am just about to turn on the light. There is just no way to know what I’ll find once I do.