Like so many people right now I’m into Brené Brown. In fact, the week I bought her book, three separate people had mentioned her so she is certainly à la mode. So too are her specialisms of shame and vulnerability.
As regular readers will know, I’ve been ‘doing’ vulnerability for a while now as a writer. I like to ‘show my lining’ as I have been known to call it, and to ‘write naked’. One of my students, an NLP practitioner, called Rawia, was even inspired to guestpost for me on the subject, explaining why doing so is so vital to our wellbeing.
But it wasn’t until this morning, when I allowed myself my daily dose of Brené with my cup of coffee that I realised there was more to it.
“Once you realize that your self-worth is hitched to what you’ve produced or created, it’s unlikely that you’ll share it, or if you do, you’ll strip away a layer or two of the juiciest creativity and innovation to make the revealing less risky,” she writes in her latest book, Daring Greatly.
Which takes the issue of being vulnerable as a writer to a whole new level. Sure, it’s hard to ‘bare all’ in a piece of writing. You feel open, raw, exposed and worry that you will be judged for the ‘person you really are’. And so there is one road block right away, making you stall before you even pick up the pen.
Tough to write in the first place
Many of my writing friends struggle with writing real, hard-hitting, painful truths about their lives, their feelings, their experiences, because they think they will be judged, or that, even if they write something privately in a journal, someone may read it (worst of all that the person is their mother) and in some cases that it will be found after their death and someone will read it then.
I believe that the road to healing and to dealing with tough stuff IS to write it down. And I believe that when I share my struggles with the world and press the Publish button on my blog that maybe someone will be helped by my words. Maybe someone will see themselves in my story and realise they are not alone. I’m not talking about changing the world, just one person is enough for me to know it was worth it.
Some of my students worry about the fine line between narcisism and actually helping others. I tell them that if their words are written not to wallow in your pain or to show you are a victim, but are written with the purpose of helping and supporting others, then they are on the right track.
Tough to share
But once your heart-on-sleeve writing is out there in the blogosphere, you have another problem to face. What if it doesn’t help anybody? What if someone doesn’t like it?
Brown continues with: “If the reception does not meet your expectations, you’re crushed. Your offering is no good and you’re no good […] you shut down. Shame tells you that you shouldn’t even have tried.”
I know. I’ve been there. Crushed and left blocked for over six months from a piece of criticism from just one person in a group of 10 (the other nine loved it). Vulnerability and shame are never far away for the writer. Between a rock and a hard place you feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t and then if you do (write it and publish it) you may get one piece of negative feedback. No, you won’t notice the 299 pieces of great feedback!
My solution to this is to get back up and try again. And, like magic, the moment I get another piece of good feedback and I’m cooking on gas.
In conclusion, though, as I watch Brown’s amazing TED talks on this subject and learn how she was terrified of exposing herself in this way, telling her stories of how ‘uncool’ she had been, and then, having done so, how she ducked away to hide for fear of (metaphorical) rotten tomatoes being thrown at her, I recognise the effect of her incredible bravery. She ‘dared greatly’ and, in doing so, is changing lives all over the world.
I’m in. Are you?
All the latest news, views, and writing tips from Jo Parfitt and the team at Summertime Publishing