Shame, Vulnerability and Hiding

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When you write, do you put yourself on the page? Of course, you do. You can’t do otherwise. But the real issue is, how much of yourself do you allow to show through? Do you censor yourself? Do you deliberately reword because something you may say will reveal too much of yourself?

Admit it. It’s hard to talk about real issues, about how you really feel, with friends. And then, you expect to put it on the page? For example, I grew up with an alcoholic step-father and, believe me, those years are hard to talk about. Even the mention here is hard.

Our fears revolve around issues of shame. You would be embarrassed if someone knew this one thing about you. You wouldn’t be able to show your face, if you revealed such and so. (Once, I found one of his hidden bottles and opened it and dumped the whole thing out and then put the empty bottle back where I found it. He never said anything–because of his shame and embarrassment, I presume.)

Vulnerability–showing our real face to others–is essential if your fiction will have an authentic voice, a deep impact on readers. Sure, there’s fluff writing, pure entertainment. But what sells are stories about real issues, told in a way that impacts others deeply.

To resolve those issues of shame, to allow yourself to be vulnerable, I recommend you start by watching this video by Brene Brown, which has been viewed over 7 million times. The description sounds like a definition of the task of a novelist: “Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.”

If you can’t see this video, click here. TED also includes a transcript in multiple languages.

I am preaching to myself, most of all. I know that in 2013, I want to write the most honest, most vulnerable stories I’ve ever attempted. Someone once asked, “What are you scared to write?” Then, recommended that you attempt that very thing. I am most scared of stories which will lay my soul bare, leave me vulnerable. That’s what I need to attempt next.

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2 Comments
  • Tracy Campbell
    December 31, 2012

    Thanks for sharing!
    Happy New Year

  • Heather Villa
    January 1, 2013

    When we’re vulnerable, we help ourselves but others too. And when that happens, shame is erased. When we know what we need to do, it’s easier to do it. Happy 2013 with the freedom to authentically write, write, write! Merci!