I write stuff for a living and writing for a living means that, sometimes, people around me will read the things I write in front of me — friends, family, FBI agents, and other law enforcement officials, etc. I don't know if this is true of all people who write things for a living, or anyone who writes anything for any reason, but when someone is reading something I wrote while I'm in their presence, I immediately want to throw up.
It doesn't matter what the item in question is, be it a blog post or a book or a ransom note. It makes little difference. Even if it's something as innocuous as a text message, I feel wildly uncomfortable standing there while someone I know reads it and processes it and, above all else, JUDGES it, and presumably judges me as a person while doing so. Did they like what I wrote down? Did they hate it? Are they mentally appalled by me but far too polite to openly say anything about it? GOD I CAN'T TAKE IT JUST CUT MY HEAD OFF AND BE DONE WITH IT.
To me, writing is basically opening up the screen door to your brain and letting people in to wander around. Come on in! Have some tea! Take a look at my deepest fears and desires. There are yo-yos in the back if you get bored. It's something of an intimate experience, somehow more intimate than talking to people face-to-face because you're performing a kind of mind meld with them. And, frankly, I'd prefer to not be standing there while that mind meld takes place. It would be like hanging out while two donkeys are having sex. That's their alone time, and I'd prefer to not trample on it.
Just to make sure I wasn't completely insane about this, I asked my friend Will Leitch, who also writes things, if he felt the same way. His response:
"God, yes. I think I once slapped my wife's computer shut."
So I'm not alone in having this kind of anxiety. And perhaps it's something of a good thing. It's only fun to read stuff when the person writing it is going outside their comfort zone and offering you a piece of themselves they wouldn't extend to you face-to-face. So maybe that's where the discomfort lies, in the idea that seeing someone read in front of you is the same as you mouthing out words you would never speak. I don't know. All I know is, if my wife reads this while I'm watching TV, I'm moving to another room.