One of the scariest parts of writing (for me at least) is being vulnerable. There are two dimensions to vulnerability: being vulnerable in your writing and being vulnerable when showing your writing to others.
It’s so important to be honest when you write, but sometimes writing with this kind of vulnerability feels like you’re peeling your skin off. This is especially true of genres such as memoir and poetry. Even if you’re writing fiction, your writing needs to be honest to human experience.
Vulnerability can also involve taking risks in form, style, or content. When you invite uncertainty in your writing, this allows space for surprise and growth. If you never try anything new or take any risks, your writing may become stale or rigid.
Once you’ve created a finished piece, sharing it with other people involves another type of vulnerability. According to the dictionary, when something is vulnerable it can be wounded or hurt. That’s true of most writers’ feelings when they allow others to read their writing. There is always the possibility of being wounded or hurt when other people don’t understand your writing or reject what you are trying to do.
Submitting work for publication involves an even deeper level of vulnerability. You have to be willing to allow someone else to read your work and judge its suitability, and with this comes rejection. Even the most successful writers experience rejection. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is bad; it may simply be a poor fit for the place you’ve submitted it.
Knowing all this doesn’t make rejection easy. Anne Lamott says that as writers we need to be willing to expose ourselves, but knowing that we need to be vulnerable is different than actually achieving this in our writing and in our willingness to share our writing with others. I’ve determined to cultivate this quality in my writing; that’s one of the things that this writing conference has inspired me to do.
There will probably be many more conference-inspired posts in the near future. I feel like I’ve learned so much and been encouraged in so many ways. Keep writing!