Monday, July 7, 2014

The Vulnerable Writer



Have you written the story that is close to your heart? It may be a sensitive or really controversial topic, that burning issue that requires you to dig deep and lay your soul bare. It’s the story that requires you to be open, honest, direct and vulnerable.

Many people associate vulnerability with weakness. But it actually requires a certain strength, because it involves putting yourself out there – exposing who you are. Being vulnerable means letting go, exposing your thoughts, ideas and true emotions to reveal your imperfectly perfect self. That’s scary. So maybe associating it with weakness is a way to avoid the issue? After all, vulnerability requires that you move outside your comfort zone. So we choose to err on the side of caution. Rather play it safe.

It’s been said that when you write and then you start to feel uncomfortable with the subject matter or your approach to it, that's when you are probably onto something really good. 

But it’s a tough call. From a young age, we're taught not to make other people feel bad/uncomfortable and then as writers we're supposed to do the exact opposite. We're supposed to talk about the tough issues, not avoid them. And we have to create conflict rather than solve it. 

It takes great courage to write straight from the heart, free from fears of anonymous others and what they might think. Exposing our innermost selves comes with the risk of being rejected or cast out, or being perceived as a failure. This is linked to our struggle for self-worth. If people approve of it, then we’re worthy. If people disapprove then we’re worthless. But that's a discussion for another day...

Thoughts to ponder:

In your writing, choose to be brave enough to peel back the layers, to reveal who you really are... 

Dig deep and write about that subject matter that weighs heavy on your heart...

Dare to be vulnerable... 

38 comments:

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Michelle,

I think this is how the stories that stay with us get written. Despite how tough they are to write, the writer hunkers down and digs deep to come up with something that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished.

Well said, Michelle.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I wonder if exposing one's conservative views would be considered risky?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

By the second book in my series, I started dealing with tougher issues and ones that were personal to me. The stories became stronger as a result.

Pat Hatt said...

Dealing with them through writing really shows through in the end, so well worth exploring indeed.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I've found the books that impacted me the most were when the author dared to be vulnerable.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Yes. I agree whole-heartedly. When I wrote my play, Coffee Shop Confessions, it was very personal. I knew that at certain points, I'd make the audience uncomfortable, and in other places, they might even cry. I said to one of the actors that I felt badly about it, and wanted to hold back in creating those feelings. He said, "You have to do it." And, he was right, of course. That's what made the characters and their stories so real.
Great post!
Play off the Page

olgagodim said...

Great post! It takes courage to expose our vulnerabilities for all the world to see. Maybe that's why so many writers and readers opt for escapism - genre literature that entertains without digging deep to unearth the vulnerable soul. Easier that way.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

We are taught to avoid things that make us and others uncomfortable. It's not easy digging deep and letting others see the real us.

Murees Dupé said...

I usually shy away from things that make me uncomfortable or push me out of my comfort zone. This post makes me want to be a lot braver.

klahanie said...

Hi Michelle,

A large amount of my posts show my vulnerability, my transparency. I wouldn't do it any other way. I also know that a number of folks who write are not willing to show beyond the "mask."

I get loads of emails from people who tell me they wish they had the courage to do what I do. So, in some aspects, they relate to what I say and the feedback I get for what I do is an inspiring catalyst.

Personally, I don't find it takes great courage to write from the heart and under my real name. It's a shared therapy.

A wise and thoughtful post, Michelle.

Gary

Lynda R Young said...

I think we have a tendency to appreciate vulnerability in others more than in ourselves.

kaykuala said...

Dare to be vulnerable

Talk tough issues and create conflicts! That'll make one vulnerable. It's good for the write-up, never thought of it this way. Great advice!

Hank

J.K. Coi said...

I think you're definitely right. The stories where you can tear down the walls and really put your heart on the page are the ones that other people will connect with best because they'll feel the truth in those words!

Debra McKellan said...

I try to push myself to keep going when that feeling of vulnerability hits. If it makes me uncomfortable, I'm supposed to be writing it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle - I'm sure what you're saying is right - as I don't write per se ... and I do probably keep a degree of a mask up on the blog .. Gary is a great exponent of letting his heart hang out ..

Things that ring true .. mean more ... good for you for writing that way ...

Cheers Hilary

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post, Michelle. Letting the reader see our vulnerabilities is a huge risk - but I agree, one well worth taking! :)

Chrys Fey said...

Wonderful advice. I always try to write true to my heart. We really do have to be brave and strong to write about tough issues.

Denise Covey said...

These are the types of stories I like to read. Good post Michelle.

G. B. Miller said...

I think there's two types of vulnerable: smart and stupid.

Mine fell into the realm of stupid. 'Course, it got me into writing, but in hindsight, that vulnerable story should've been buried deep in my backyard pushing up the daisies. As it was, it took me three years to recover from it.


Father Nature's Corner

krystal jane said...

I couldn't agree more! Being vulnerable takes strength. It goes along with one of my favorite sayings, "It takes strength to cry." And it really does. When we write without fear, we're free to create. And I really think that's the only way to write something great. :) At least I can tell a pretty huge difference in my writing between the stories I've been afraid to write and the ones I've just written anyway.

Linda Kay Christensen said...

I've always been told that a writer often fails because he/she writes like Mother will read it! Interesting thought.

Medeia Sharif said...

Fantastic post. I find that my edgy manuscripts have me at my most vulnerable, but I need to get those ideas out.

Melissa said...

You're right; it takes strength--heck, sometimes pure guts. I like a book that stirs my emotions and makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

The flip-side to the coin, though, is that you have to write it well. I've see books get shredded in the reviews; but it wasn't the underlying issue that was the problem, it was the way it was presented.

Great post, Michelle.

Crystal Collier said...

Agreed! Still, that doesn't mean you won't be scared to death with all that fleshy vulnerability hanging out. ;)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Wonderful post. I know a few gifted writers who if only they'd do this! Their novels would be classics. Fear, I think, stops them. My parents are gone now, so I'm not so fearful any longer. I tell my kids it's not me, it's my character speaking. They looked confused, then nod like that makes sense. LOL.

M Pax said...

Being vulnerable is very messy and uncomfortable. I tend to put more of myself into all of my characters than I think.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Vulnerability takes a great deal of courage, but I think it's worth digging into the deeper truths under the surface.

Andiri rahmah said...

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:D
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http://putyourheartshere.blogspot.com/2014/07/jessica-simpson-weds-eric-johnson-so.html

Lexa Cain said...

I put diversity and other cultures/religions in my writing. I write about tough moral choices and the things I believe in. I've noticed that successful authors in my genres (horror and thriller) never include anything controversial. They write about WASP characters doing WASP things. After this WIP, I'm going to do that, since it's obviously what people want and it sells so much better.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I agree that it's important to "peel back layers" to show different dimensions in each character. It's not always easy, but it really brings the stories to life.

Julie

L.G. Keltner said...

I've written a couple stories like this, and it's the most frightening thing in the world to let anyone else read them. The one I remember most is the one I wrote as a final project my senior year in college. I had to present part of it in class, and I actually started crying. That's more vulnerable than I usually like to get, but fortunately, my classmates were generally supportive.

cleemckenzie said...

That's the hardest part about letting people you know read your stories--at least for me. I feel very vulnerable, revealing how I feel through characters and situations.

Julie Musil said...

Beautifully said, Michelle. This is the toughest part for me. To be "out there." So often I've kept things hidden, but to lay them bare? Very difficult. But I've made a commitment to be "out there," no matter what happens. Thanks for a wonderful post.

Michelle Wallace said...

Joy, when it comes to the issue of writing from a vulnerable place, I think you do a great job!

Alex, exposing any point of view, no matter what it is, would be a risky thing, simply because there are always those in opposition.

Diane, sounds like you're familiar with this...

Pat, it makes the writing that much deeper/richer.

Christine, I have to agree!

Mary, the title Coffee Shop Confessions tells me it's intimate... sounds really good... hope to see your play one day...

Olga, I hadn't thought of it in that way. Makes sense though.

Susan, I'm guilty of this in day to day affairs... I try to avoid making others uncomfortable.

Murees, me too. I suppose the more we write and push the boundaries, the braver we'll become.

Gary, I tip my hat to you. You are a star!

Lynda, exactly... I know I always do.

Kaykuala, it's good for the make-up... absolutely.

JK, spot on! But it's not easy... well, not for me anyway...

Debra, I imagine that once you push through that wall, then you're on your way.

Hilary, Gary is amazing. A true champion!

Jemi, a great risk indeed... but imagine the long term pay-off?

Michelle Wallace said...

Chrys, it's tough... a real challenge...

Denise, me too... these stories resonate...

G.B.Miller, sorry to hear that your experience with "vulnerable writing" didn't go too well...

Krystal, sounds like you're well on your way!

Linda Kay, very interesting... it's difficult since mother's opinion always matters.

Medeia, you seem to be doing well.

Melissa, what would be considered writing a controversial/sensitive "touchy" topic well? Whose interpretation of "well"? Food for thought...

Crystal, you're bound to upset SOMEBODY... so you will be scared.

Joylene, I like that. Blame it on the characters. LOL

MPax, messy and uncomfortable sounds about right.

Tyrean, keep the long term pay-off in mind.

Lexa, the 'deeper' writing always hits closer to home! maybe you hit a nerve... I'd say, stick to what you believe in!

Julie K. Pick, it really does... and I hope to get there.

L.G.Keltner, you are brave... you should feel proud... well done.

C.Lee, that's my "future" fear... people will read my stories and draw certain conclusions about me, based on my stories...

S.K. Anthony said...

Fantastic post, Michelle!
It takes courage to cover topics that are hard to discuss—because of society or personal feelings—but when we're passionate we can do it justice and portray it the right way. At least the right way for our own messages. Dare to be vulnerable . . . I like it! :D

Michelle Wallace said...

Thanks Julie Musil & S.K. Anthony.
Easier said than done... but we can try!

padawandreamer said...

I think it's easier to be vulnerable in writing than in person. I don't like when people see me blush.