Vulnerability. That is pretty much the art of writing. We strip away layers of armour from our souls. Tender flesh underneath; scared with betrayal or abuse, maybe maimed by words or actions from high school bullies that pushed you into the second-floor lockers every morning for three years, that is until you fought back. Perhaps its that guy you went out with who took it a bit too far one night, but you blamed yourself. We are creatures beautifully complex and terribly flawed and yet that is what makes writing and the human condition so interesting. We put it all down on the paper and let it live again or take on a new face or a new name. We give breath to our vulnerability, we call them poems and stories and books; protagonists, villains and heroes. But it does come at a cost. You risk really being seen. You risk being outed as the true person you are because writing bears the soul and that, is uncomfortable.
I’ve come to believe that when we write we need to make ourselves uncomfortable. Write about that time we felt alone, lost or helpless. Let the reader know that feeling when you can’t do anything but sit on the couch, hands quivering, not knowing what you can do. Calling out to whatever deity you believe in, and maybe calling on old ones you thought were dead. All this because that feeling of helplessness and fear is so insurmountable and complete that you cannot even move. Make your reader feel that and see that and experience that. But then, they will know you. Some things can be created by way of imagination, but most visceral responses to a piece of writing arrive from experiential learning. We need to tell the stories inside use to exercise the demons that call themselves desperation and depression. We need to be unafraid of bearing our souls to the reader, whoever they may be. As Dr. Brene Brown so clearly puts it “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”.
Vulnerability is such a gorgeous yet ugly state isn’t it? But it is where our creative voice comes from. Think of when Maya Angelou wrote “I know why the caged bird Sings”, how telling the story of her teen pregnancy and being taken advantage of must have been for her. How raw the emotion, and the anticipation knowing that all of her readers would know exactly what she endured. Her poems and memories are a reminder of female empowerment in a time where that was looked so unfavourably upon. She wrote from a place of unshielded vulnerability and gave access to parts of herself no one could know unless she told the story.
I have shared intimate pieces with readers, they know me. They know my struggles and my past. People have shared how it made them feel and how they connect to the words I write and in turn to me. I am seen, that’s a very uncomfortable feeling. I’ve worn too many masks in my life to count on two hands. I wanted to live up to expectations and aspirations by being something that I wasn’t – so I changed. But telling that story is harder than I ever thought possible. Not because the material isn’t there, but because I delve into places and people long dead to me, and for the first time I see who I really am; the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. The self-reflection that comes from creating is very private yes, individual – of course, but when we share all that we are I think we gain something much more than we lose. We see ourselves as our readers see us. A true vision of ourselves that is reflected back in all its beauty and faulty chaos. To see ourselves as we truly are- perfectly imperfect. That allows us something greater. It emboldens us, strengthens us to move forward no matter the terrain. It makes us brave!