This is the comment I made in response to her blog:
“In looking back at my writing--from the time when I refused to let me, the writer, into my stories/characters at all--to now, where I've learned to open myself up a little, the transformation is quite shocking. My stories and characters are more alive, more tangible to me, and I hope will be others, when I peek over the walls I've so skillfully built up over the years. I need to bookmark this, so whenever I forget to open up as a writer or feel my works are stunted and distant, I have a reminder to really crack open my characters, as well as myself.”
I think this issue of letting ourselves, the writer, become vulnerable and to not be afraid of it in our writing, is something that so many writers deal with way too frequently, but don’t necessarily address often.
This is the quote that hooked me—that had me scribbling frantically about my own experience with letting my own vulnerabilities and insecurities as a writer creep into my stories and characters:
“When we’re worried about what our mother or co-worker is going to think, our voice dies. When we hold back the emotions because they’re too painful for us to poke at, our writing suffers.”(Gold, Jami. "How Vulnerable is Your Writing?". www.jamigold.com)
There is nothing truer than this, in my estimation. I have lived this, the worry and anxieties about what people think of me, as a writer, and even as a person in general to some degree. It’s hard for us to be who we are meant to be when we worry about what others think, and it’s even harder to write honestly and openly and create emotions for our readers to connect with when we stunt the ourselves emotionally in our writing. Inevitably, and too often, it is our characters who suffer the most.
Until recently, I’d been terrified of making myself (and my characters) vulnerable to others. Due to a bad experience I had as a young writer in high school, I stopped opening up, as a person AND as a writer. Instead of keeping myself open and honest in my writing I built up those walls another commenter spoke of. This reader of my short story, a trusted teacher at the time, thought my story was 'too dark' and that something was 'wrong' with me because it was sad. I wonder if Stephen King gets that same reaction when he writes. But that’s beside the point. The thing is, even though I’m far from my high school days, that one incident stopped me from opening up and affected my life in so many ways that it makes me angry now to think how much time and experience I’ve lost because of it. Funny how one person, so long ago, can set off a chain of events that lasts years; I let this person stop me from being who I am. That experience, it stunted me as a person, and as a writer. I continued to write, but for my eyes only, but was never feeling satisfied that what I was writing was, well any good. I couldn’t figure out why for the longest time. But now, another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.
Recently, and because of some awesome writer-friends I’ve made, I got sick of hiding and just let loose. I poured myself into my latest short story and cracked open my characters in every way possible, turning them upside down and inside out to figure them out. In the process, I think I might have made a few holes in the walls I built up too, or at least, allowed myself to let a teeny tiny bit of myself and my own vulnerabilities and insecurities shine through. When I reached the end of my story, I was stunned at how ALIVE the story and the characters were. I think it's the best thing I've ever written to date and it oddly, has given me confidence to continue writing like this and think about publishing it in some way, shape or form.
So I give a great big shout-out to Jami and her blog post. It spoke to me today and said, way more eloquently than I can, what I’ve most recently discovered. To write, sometimes emotional risks need to be taken by not only the characters, but by the writer too. We should not only let our characters’ vulnerabilities, insecurities and faults be seen and embraced by our readers, but we as writers should not be afraid to dig deep within ourselves and share a little of ourselves as well within the context of the story. For me, it is when I do this, that I feel like I can get inside the heads and hearts of my characters more readily. I can expose who they are and, hopefully, reach out to grab the reader by the hands, dragging them into the world I’ve created.