When I was a teacher, one of the worst things a kid could have, the thing that would hold her back throughout life and beyond, was low self-concept.
It was whispered about children, as though they would never get any farther than flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s because they had, you know:
a low self-concept
Of course, as teachers, we did everything we could—praise, special recognition, a paper crown on their birthday, stapling their paintings front and center on the bulletin board—in a valiant effort to make them feel better about themselves.
So they would have improved self-esteem.
There was nothing wrong with that, of course. Kids need to grow up feeling good about themselves.
But in the adult world of the creative arts, I find that the best writers, bloggers, and plain old communicators, the ones whose stuff I can’t wait to read, have a certain vulnerability. They let me in close, tell me what they’re really feeling. They examine themselves, bare their hearts and souls.
Admit their humanness.
I love Mitch Joel’s quote in his post, The Power of Vulnerability:
The heart and soul of great art is the ability for the artist to be vulnerable.
If being vulnerable means taking off the armor and allowing yourself to be hurt, it also means being open enough to connect with people on deeper levels—to touch the heart and not just the head.
Did Steinbeck Have a Low Self-Concept?
John Steinbeck wrote these words, after a particularly disappointing day’s work on his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath:
“I don’t know whether I could write a book now. That is the greatest fear of all. Something is poisoned in me. You pages—ten of you—you are the dribble cup—you are the cloth to wipe up the vomit. Maybe I can get these fears and disgusts on you and then burn you up. Then maybe I won’t be so haunted.”
Okay, well, I’d say Steinbeck is baring his soul here (complete with “the cloth to wipe up the vomit.”) As brilliant as he was, he doubted his writing ability from time to time and wasn’t afraid to admit it.
Another thing he’s doing? He’s showing me his humanness. I have doubts and fears. I’m connecting with him more because he has them, too.
My humor is rather self-deprecating. I never turn on others, so it’s safe because I am making fun of myself. But maybe somewhere in there, my readers can see a little of themselves, too.
Or maybe I just need counseling
I was commenting on another writer’s blog post once. We were talking about the creative process and coming to the desk ready to work.
I said, “Every time I sit down to write a new blog post, I think, ‘Okay. I wrote a good post last week, but maybe that was just a fluke. What if I can’t write another good one because that was the only idea I had?’”
Of course, I was expressing an exaggerated thought, but, still, there was some emotional truth there.
The blogger replied, “Maybe you should look into getting some counseling to feel better about yourself and then you might discover that you are a good writer after all.”
I was floored.
He totally didn’t get what I was saying— that thing that many excellent writers struggle with. We get recognized for something we wrote and we think, “What if they find out I’m really a fake? That I can’t really write a good blog post, or a real poem, or an amazing piece of fiction?”
In my blog post comment, I had quoted from Bonnie Friedman’s amazing book, Writing Past Dark:
Every day I must prove to myself I am a writer. The knowledge goes away in my sleep.
If we are honest like Friedman, does it really mean that we have self-concept issues? Or does it mean that we sometimes have these feelings and, by expressing them, we hope to connect with our readers in more real ways?
Being a little vulnerable is one of the best ways to connect with your readers
We should not be afraid to inject a little vulnerability into our writing. To admit our fears.
To be human.
What about you?
Do you see vulnerability in someone’s writing as a sign of weakness?
Do you ever write from a place of vulnerability?
Do you think more or less of a blogger who is open and honest about her feelings?
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