When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable with your writing, art, or other creations?
Does the thought of that make you want to curl up in a ball and hide under the covers? I admit it makes me want to. But as authors and creators we have to open ourselves up and be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is defined as “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon, open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.” (dictionary.com).
So sharing our work with others is the most vulnerable creatives can be. Whether it is sharing with a critique partner or beta reader, querying, publishing, or asking people to read and review your work. There is always the chance that something can go horribly wrong, that you will recieve harsh feedback or criticism of your art.
But there is also the chance that something amazing can happen.
That is what I want you to remember.
I’ve been sitting on a finished manuscript since last summer. It’s done, edited, and the best I can possibly make it on my own. Yet, I’ve done absolutely nothing with this since last September, with the intent to query but that never happened. Why? Because I am afraid of allowing myself to be vulnerable. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, vulnerability makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide. My writing, while not autobiographical in the least, is where I am most vulnerable. So much of me went into this book. The thought of people reading it is terrifying to me. The thought of sending a query letter and the first chapter to agents makes me anxious as hell. It’s not the rejection that scares me as much as putting my work (and myself) out there.
Last week, I confronted my issues with vulnerability.
While I have shared my work with a few select critique partners who I trust to give me honest and helpful feedback, I haven’t done much to share The Girl in the Glass Coffin with others. The Creative Writing Club at the school where I work organized a creative writing celebration, where students, teachers, and community members could read aloud their own writing and share it with others.
You get where I’m going here, right?
When asked to submit my writing to share with the kids, I hemmed and hawed a little bit, but eventually caved. I write for teens, so why not share a part of my book with the audience it’s intended for. Then I completely forgot about it. And last week, the week after a vacation, I was slammed with reality.
I’d have to read an excerpt from my book in front of real, live, human beings.
The day of the event I was fine, until about an hour or two before the it was scheduled to start. That’s when the nerves kicked in and I seriously thought about ditching. But I didn’t. I promised the club advisers I’d be there and it would be even more awkward if I didn’t show up.
The first half of the program blew me away.
The student’s writing was amazing. Many read pieces they wrote about their own lives. If they could be vulnerable and share this with others, so could I. I kept telling myself this over and over, but didn’t really believe it. I was scheduled to read in the second half of the program. When my name was announced I stood, walked up the stairs (somehow without tripping), took a deep breath, and began to read. My voice shook (which actually ended up working with the excerpt I’d chosen). My heart beat so fast in my chest I thought I was going to pass out. But I kept reading, just focusing on the words on the page. Words I’ve read more than a hundred times as I wrote the story. And then it was over. People clapped and I left the stage (probably at a near run).
All in all, it was probably about 4 minutes that I was up there, reading to about 30 people in attendance. It felt like an hour.
I sank back in my chair and tried to breathe and enjoy the rest of the event. When it was over, some of the students I worked with came up to me and said that they loved my story. That it had them riveted and wanting more. I got nothing but compliments on my work and was able to tell others that their words were so powerful and inspiring.
While I forced myself to be vulnerable, it was one of the most worthwhile and amazing experiences of my career so far, not just as a writer but as a teacher as well.
And while it was terrifying, I won’t lie to you. But as a writer, artist, or creative person sharing our work makes us better. The more we share what we’ve created, the easier it will be to make ourselves vulnerable by putting out projects out there. It’s made me realize that I have to put myself out there. If I want anything to happen with this book that I’ve spent years writing, I have to query. I have to be open to criticism, feedback, failure. While it still scares me, I know that’s part of the process now.
To read a draft of the first chapter of The Girl in the Glass Coffin click here.
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