If you were to judge me by my writing alone, you would perceive me as a fairly dark, grim person. After all, the stories I tell are well in the realm of dark and grimdark fantasy.

But that’s not me at all. In fact, I’m actually quite a cheerful, optimistic person. I like to see the good in human nature, and I give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to joke that when I’m writing characters like the Hunter, I think “What would I do in this instance?” and make him do the exact opposite.

As an author, I have to wear a mask to tell the stories I want to tell. I slip into this mask of grittiness and darkness, and the stories flow out onto the page. But when I’m done writing, I take off the mask and return to the life of a normal, everyday person.

A friend told me: “I have mild panics and panic attacks all the time…my mind is always on, even to the degree of obsessing over one word or statement for weeks. When I was a kid, I was called highly strung. I had a stress induced stomach ulcer as a young teen. It’s part of the reason I love drama and writing so much. When I pull on that “mask” I don’t have to be me and I don’t have to stress about what to say, they words are already laid out ready to speak–or the characters are there able to be funneled through.”

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All of us wear a mask of some sort. The masks aren’t intended to hide who we truly are, but they are a way for us to connect with the world in a way we aren’t able to in real life. By slipping on these masks, we can see through fresh eyes, and it gives us a glimpse into what is totally “normal” for someone else.

Our mask allows us to present a certain face to the world—the face we want others to see. For some of us, it’s the face of a cool, calm, and confident person when really we’re wrestling with insecurities every second of the day. For others, it’s a face of intelligence even though we feel insufficient in many areas. For many, it’s a face of strength when we want nothing more than to curl up into a ball and hide.

So what’s under your mask? We can all see the face you show to the world, but what’s underneath? The real you is someone worth showing as well!