For the first time ever, I did it. I know it may not be a big deal to many, but for the first time since I can remember, I let someone read my writing.
I think the first thing I did right was use a fresh piece. It was a short story off of an idea that came to me a few days ago. Using a new idea alleviated some of the pressure that I've felt with pieces I've worked on for a long time; the pieces I've been developing over years, or even months, hold a lot more weight for me because they're ideas I really want to see work out. If someone were to tell me they weren't good I would feel highly discouraged. But with a fresh piece I was able to see it as an experiment and was more open to constructive criticism.
I also took Stephen King's advice and found an ideal reader I could trust. One of the worst things for me, in any situation, is receiving false support: I don't want anyone to tell me something I do is good just to be nice. If someone tells me something I've done is good, I want them to mean it. Having someone I'm close to, that I can trust, read my piece gave me peace of mind that I would receive honest feedback, good or bad. Mr. King uses his wife as an ideal reader for the same reasons.
I was really surprised after my reader read my piece: his review was glowing. I had only proofread it once, but decided to hand it over before I could change my mind. He laughed and smiled at all the right places and told me that he was immersed in the world I created and it left him only wanting more. This was exactly what I'd hoped to hear. In fact, he only offered one item of criticism: that I post it elsewhere for other people to read.
I have the piece still drafted out and ready to go. Maybe it's my nerves hitting me again and holding me back from actually posting it. Maybe I need to pull the trigger and just do it despite my reservations. This experience has taught me, however, that I need to appreciate the little successes, especially in a field as personal and tumultuous as writing is. So for now, while I'm still building myself up, learning about myself as a writer, learning how to navigate this craft, I'm going to be proud of my latest accomplishment. I'm going to allow myself to be proud of this step forward and continue to put one foot in front of the other. I'm excited to see where this goes.