A few years ago when my friend Peggy passed away, her daughter asked me to read a short essay I had written. Her mom had liked it, and the family thought it would be a touching tribute.

I was honored, and a bit horrified at the thought of reading my writing out loud in public. I much preferred the safety of a computer screen and the Internet to separate me from my audience. I felt the same way when one of my poems was used in a religious service. Thankfully, in that case I didn’t have to stand in front of hundreds of people and recite it. Instead, it was transformed into a video and set over a dramatic background with its own touching soundtrack. Watching people’s reactions while they read the poem to themselves was almost unbearable. In both cases, the work that was shared wasn’t written for a particular audience. It was just written. To have the work experienced in my presence seemed like a violation of the writer-reader pact.

When did I stop writing for others or in response to the events around me? And when did having others experience my work become such an embarrassment?