Why Vulnerability is an Essential Part of Any Writer’s Toolkit

As writers, it’s common to feel vulnerable when sharing our work with the world. So much so, it can stop us from letting anyone read it. But, as painful as it can feel, it pays to add vulnerability to your toolkit. Not just for your writing, but for your personal growth too. 

Avoiding vulnerability

My son Beau is an aspiring author. Often he’ll tell me his latest idea for a book and sit at his laptop, busily typing away and regularly sharing his word count with me. Far less frequently but still occasionally, he’ll tell me the odd snippet of information about a character or a morsel of a plot twist.

But there’s one thing he won’t share. 

The whole book. 

And if I ask to read it? He gets a bit squirmy and wriggly in his chair. He’ll even close the laptop lid if I step too close. 

Okay, some of that might be down to a typical teenage mindset, but it got me thinking. Why do we feel so vulnerable as writers? Why, when we share our work with others, do we immediately wish we could snatch it back, admitting we’d made a terrible mistake or that it’s not quite ready yet? 

Let’s use an expert to help us out.

Why do we struggle with vulnerability?

Author, vulnerability expert and all-around amazing human, Brené Brown, shares how it stems from our desire for connection. It’s why we’re here, after all. You want to feel connected to the people around you – even if you don’t even know them that well. 

It’s probably why you want to write a book in the first place – to connect with your audience and share your message with them. But it’s a double-edged sword. Our desire to connect can also be the reason we don’t want others to read our work. The pain of disconnection – or being an outcast from the tribe – is the primary reason we feel shame. 

In Brené’s research, she found that this fear of disconnection makes us doubt ourselves and our ability – it’s why we think we’re not good enough. 

However, when studying people who have a strong sense of connection, love and belonging, Brené found the only difference between those people and those who felt disconnected was belief.

They believed they had a sense of connection. They believed they were worthy of love. For those of us who struggle with vulnerability on a regular basis, her research suggests it’s our belief in our worthiness that matters. We fear we’re not worthy of the love and connection our writing could provide.

So, how can we turn this around? How can we learn to embrace connection and vulnerability, and accept them as part of the process? 

Making friends with vulnerability

First and foremost, right off the bat, let’s me just say it’s okay – and normal – to feel vulnerable. It’s part of the human experience.

But it’s when those feelings of shame and vulnerability stop you from doing the things you want to do, that’s when it’s time to look for solutions. Instead of running away from the problem, how about you tackle it head-on?

Brené suggests leaning into the discomfort. Those who feel that strong sense of connection regularly accept and embrace vulnerability, and are willing to do something with no guarantee of success. 

And that’s the hard part, right? When you’ve spent so long on your book, learning to accept the chance of it all going tits up is a hard one… but a necessary one nonetheless. It takes practise and a whole lot of courage. 

Which is handy…as it’s courage that counts.

Courage and vulnerability

When Brené researched the people who felt a strong sense of worthiness, she realised they were more courageous than most. 

The original definition of courage means ‘telling the story of who you are with your whole heart.’ When it comes to writing, it can mean sharing your book with your whole heart and accepting that not everyone will like it. 

But it’s also the courage to be imperfect that matters too. And the way we can start to get over that hurdle is with self-compassion and self-love. Become perfectly imperfect.

It’s so important within the creative process to be kind to yourself. To be willing to learn from mistakes you make, rather than seeing them as a reason to be hard on yourself. To let go of the grip that perfectionism has on your work and let it out into the world when it’s good enough. 

So what can you do moving forward?

So if you’re willing to give connection and vulnerability a try, here are a few starters for ten.

  • Be willing to publish your work without any guarantees of success – start off small if it helps. Publish a small ebook or a short story. Something that still feels a little scary but manageable nonetheless

  • Instead of catastrophising over the possibility of bad reviews, accept that not everyone will like what you publish. Just think of the last film you saw or book you read, there’ll be loads of people who loved it and loads of people who didn’t. 

  • Stick to being the real you – the best sense of connection comes from authenticity. If you try to be someone you’re not or write in a voice that’s not yours, you’ll feel disconnected from your work and from the audience you’re hoping will read it

But the ultimate, most important thing you can do is to believe you’re worthy of the connection your book will bring. Believe you’re enough. 

Because you are. You really, really are.

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