Sharing Anything Means Losing Everything
Britney Spears said it best. There are only two types of people in the world: those who entertain and those who observe. As a writer, you fall into the first category. Therefore, how far should you go to engage your readers?
When you write, you make yourself vulnerable. I believe this comes with the process itself. To me, writing is a way to make sense of the world around us. It is a form of structuring and expressing our emotions. Understanding how language works and how beautiful writing can touch others is holding the key to opening the gate into society and human interaction. It’s words that connect people, and having the ability to tell stories derived from personal experience and having others understand, feel, and relate excites me. Basically, it comes down to writing about your vulnerabilities to signal others that other people face the same struggles.
“The best writing I’ve ever read, I always assume required some emotional fever. Because, like healing, writing is the ugliness within beauty and the beauty within ugliness.” — Brittany Chaffee
In her article, Why Vulnerability is a Writer’s Most Powerful Tool, Jane Harkness poignantly writes about the anxiousness of writing and publishing personal experiences online. Like her, I’d like to think that I have done some daring things in my life, such as attending an international female business summit in a foreign country. Furthermore, I didn’t know anyone who was attending. However, the anxiety I experience before I hit publish on any article surpasses other experiences by a wide margin. After all, strangers can read, enjoy, and judge my truth, and with that comes vulnerability.
Vulnerability needs boundaries
But to reveal anything can lead to losing everything. I mean by this that I am not convinced that writers should get very personal at all costs. It is said that excellent writing is tied to a unique experience. I’m not convinced of that.
Why would I reveal something about myself that isn’t central to the article or the point I am trying to bring across? Not only does it confuse my readers, but also it feels like I am trying too hard. And even if I had something that would be an excellent fit — if I don’t feel comfortable sharing a story, why push myself to do it anyway? For example, I can talk very well and intimately about my past relationships without feeling embarrassed in any way. But I have difficulties opening up when it comes to my experience as a woman of color. Meaning, just because I could do not mean I have to.
Second, sharing every little detail has the risk of alienating people or diluting the main point into subsets of different discussions. Who wants to know about every single one of your truths? To me, there is a stark difference between using vulnerability instead of being vulnerable.
Know how to entertain
After all, I believe the whole point is to become aware of one’s writing goals. In my opinion, a writer must be very self-aware, expressing good intentions, with no hopes and patience in his writing. This doesn’t mean to be fundamentally reticent about communicating or refraining from saying certain things. On the contrary, I think it’s necessary sometimes to say something that no one else is willing to say. But this requires a healthy awareness of boundaries.
After all, I believe it is excellent to hit “publish,” knowing that I feel comfortable with how and what I’ve shared. And hopefully, someone out there can relate and think: “Wow, I am not the only one who feels like this.”