Being Vulnerable and Overcoming the Fear of Writing
You know. There are all these "how to write" books out there, right? How to write better dialogue. How to write a better plot. How to create suspense. They're all fantastic. I've read them. But sometimes I think, what really matters in a story is the vulnerability that a writer writes with. We read, the books that I love are the books that I feel like I had an intimidate conversation with the author. The books that somehow I can just sense that he or she really went deep and risked shame ti share their story. And I think that that's something we all need to think about is how can we do that because being vulnerable on the page. Sometimes I think in our society this comes from Brene Brown, but we think vulnerability is a weakness But vulnerability takes courage right? To be vulnerable to the world. To open yourself up. That's a strong brave thing to do and so, Just try to be attuned to those moments when you're holding back and not telling the truth. As Anne Lamott said, "Good writing i...
s about telling the truth. We are a species that wants and needs to know who we are." This is really why I read and write is to know who we are, to know what the world is, to know why people do the crazy things they do. And if you're holding back from that truth, if you're feeling like you're an impostor, or feeling other people's words judging you. That might be a moment to say, go further, let's just vanish them, which is like largely about being defiant. Twyla Tharp said, "creativity is an act of defiance. You're challenging the status quo. You're questioning accepted truths and principles." And this is just by nature, like when you sit down to be creative. For what I was saying earlier, there is not a great degree of social approbation for being creative these days. So you kind of have to defiant just to decide to be a writer and write a book in a sense. And I think by nurturing that concept of yourself, as sort of an outlaw, you're more likely to kick out those naysayers and to write your truth. The poet Dean Young said, "we are making birds not bird cages." So think about ways you can focus on the birds of your imagination, Not the bird cages they might find themselves in. And I think the outlaw mentality also helps us experiment. This is a quote, comes from Becket, I don't know if you guys have heard this. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." It's kind of weird advice. To fail better. You know. What does that mean? To fail better. I think I can sum it up and say, it's like my son when he fell, he got up and kept going in a way. He wasn't harmed by that. The thing was to try. He knew he was going to fall again probably, but he found a way to get up. I wanted to find a portrait of a an anguished artist that kind of explained this creative moment and an Creative Live illustrated, drew this one for me. This author, you know, she's got the waded up pages. She's in a degree of anguish. There is no bottle of scotch there or a cup of coffee or overflowed ashtray with cigarettes, which I think might add to the anguish that a lot of authors feel. This is me more appropriate. This is the moment where you feel failure as this damning and diminishing thing. And I think, a lot of us sometimes feel this way. As Philip Roth said, "writing is frustration. It's daily frustration not to mention humiliation. It's just like baseball. You fail two thirds of the time." As I read this I realize that all my quotes are kind of negative. But yeah the thing is, is that it's true. Writing can so often feel like that you're failing, but the thing is is that you're not. The word fail. Let's put some quotes around that is not necessarily a negative thing. I think of it as a positive thing. Those little wadded up pieces of paper next to the anguished writer. Those were experiments she took. Those we're dares and risks. She happened to wad them up, but they're feeding what she's writing on the typewriter. Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work. The real measure of success is the number of experiments that can be crowded into 24 hours." Some more ideas are good. You need more ideas to get to that one great idea, because creativity is a trial and error process. I want to relate this one story that came from the book, Heart and Fear. A ceramic's professor he said he would grade half the class on making just one perfect pot, the other class, half the class, he would grade them on the volume of pots. He would just weight their pots. So, what happened is he found that the best pots, were created by those who were producing for volume not the ones who we're just producing for the one perfect pot. And that's because the ones who were producing for volume, they were producing more pots, they were getting more ideas, and those ideas were building on each other. So that was like a great example of failing better. Yeah. So here is your commandment, from Neil Gaiman. Now go, make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for you being here. Make good art.