Tuesday, February 16, 2016

On Vulnerability and Strength (Laura)

A college professor of mine said that anyone can write but it takes a strong person to share.

Putting your work out there can be one of the most challenging parts of being a writer. Important as it is to hone your skills and revise your work, there comes a time for many of us when we choose to let go and face criticism, on however small a scale--by sending work to a family member or circle of friends, sharing it with a writing group or class, maybe even submitting it to an agent and perhaps eventually a larger audience. We expose something deeply personal, and open ourselves to rejection on an elemental level.

Why do we do this?

I like to consider the words my professor spoke. I was the kind of student who kept to the shadows and avoided, at all costs possible, raising my hand in class. This professor taught a course about women writers in history and the lengths they took to have their voices heard. Topics like oppression and diversity always lit a fire in me to write, but it was this professor who helped me realize how much speaking up, while a human right, is also a privilege. As a quieter person, I have to challenge myself to relearn this lesson constantly--if only to voice an opinion respectfully or even an experience. I may be quiet at times because that is my personality, but communicating what I do have to say is my responsibility to myself. Society silences us enough in different ways, and yet, in an environment that encouraged me to speak, I was silencing myself.

I struggle with this every day.

At times I truly feel incapable of speaking, when anxiety and pressure take over any motivation I have to say something, and I try to finish my words too quickly to do them justice--whatever I have to do to take the attention off me. It's one of the reasons I turn to writing, where I have time to process, where there is no pressure to get my thoughts out perfectly the first time or even the tenth time. Where it's okay to be thoughtful and slow. Of course, the same problem inevitably arises. If I want to take my professor's advice and share--if I want to be honest--I need to get up in front of the class and be seen for who I am. Too emotional, too imperfect. Too myself.

Oftentimes, I have to remind myself that the reason people write and read is to connect. To find common ground on which we look around and realize we are not alone, we are not so very different or foolish. Unusual, unique, and even strange at times perhaps, but not unrelatable and certainly not unvaluable. There is community in writing, and that is what keeps me coming back every time. In our vulnerable moments, we find our strength and we find each other.


What motivates you when you are struggling to take that next step to share a piece of work with a friend or mail that submission you've been planning for months?

In what ways do you keep yourself going strong through setbacks?

Laura

12 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! This is great encouragement, not just for writers, but for everyone. I find that the biggest motivator I have to share with others is the desire to be better. I show my work to trustworthy people who know what they are doing, knowing that their advice will make me a better writer, artist, etc. It hurts sometimes, but it always helps me learn and improve.

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    1. I’m so glad you appreciated it, Hannah. Thank you! Like you, I try to keep in mind that feedback helps to improve, and that seems to help, even if it sometimes takes a little time and reflection to realize that.

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  2. Thank you, Laura! This is so timely for me, as I am beginning, this week, to receive feedback on my first manuscript. I love the way you stated this, "To find common ground on which we look around and realize we are not alone, we are not so very different or foolish." Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much, Erin! Good luck with your feedback on your manuscript! I’ll be curious to hear how it goes.

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  3. This post really resonated with me, thanks Laura! For me it's much harder to share what I've written than to speak, because I can choose to keep conversations at surface-level, but what I write exposes so much more of me - what takes place in the privacy of my imagination. You're absolutely right about the community in writing, I think at this point that's what keeps me moving forward as well. It's so inspiring to be surrounded by others who are also taking the chance to put themselves out there, and to receive their encouragement and support. The more I've immersed myself in the writing community, the more confident I've become that I have something to say and I want to be brave enough to share it.

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    1. Well said, Laurie. Thanks for adding that. Writing is so much more private, and it's really the brave writers I meet that give me the courage to open up in that way.

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  4. Although as a newbie writer I have not yet asked for feedback on my manuscript (it is not yet finished), in general I am very bad at receiving criticism. This is a good reminder to be brave and accept outside ideas. Well-written post on an important topic.

    ~Brenna

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    1. I think it also takes a certain kind of bravery and discipline to start writing, too. Wish you the best with your work, Brenna. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

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  5. Spruce Holly NogardFebruary 18, 2016 at 7:45 PM

    Thanks for such a great post!

    I agree that we write to connect, and it is very interesting to compare being vulnerable in writing to being vulnerable in speaking. I also have a hard time saying what I want to say a lot of the time, and it is something I am working on. :) This is such a great post and it has challenged me to look at writing and things I write in different ways.

    Thanks!

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  6. Thank you so much, Spruce. Sometimes I listen to people talk, and I'm amazed how clearly they speak and I wonder if they realize it. Maybe we are all better at it than we think we are. :)

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  7. This is awesome, Laura! I also have to remember that many rights are privileges. It's so easy to take things for granted. Thank you for sharing this :)

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