Risking Vulnerability in Writing
Alternatively titled: Why I shouldn't Care What You Think of Me?
I have recently struggled for the first time with the uphill task of writing earnestly in the face of shame and vulnerability. I have written some things on the page below which, even though are absolutely true, would paint me pathetic and pitiful. Why? Because I have admitted experiencing feelings of loneliness, anxiety, impulsiveness and rage. Not quite well rounded I am, I suppose. But more importantly, what made me squeamish about the whole thing was the question: should other people know that too?
Is there shame in being pathetic and pitiful? And even more shame in admitting being pathetic and pitiful?
Writing a lot of times is confessing — confessing to the truth one knows. It doesn’t have to be a universal truth, or a shared truth. Just a private truth of a fleeting moment. When the moment passes, the truth too becomes a conjecture, or a memory. I started collecting these memories in the form of a journal last year. It has given me intriguing insights. It is anyway entertaining to read. It has cemented my habit of writing. I used to wait for inspiration for a long time to get me to write something. Now I don’t have to. There is something always stirring in my head good enough to get me hitting the keys.
But, the journal is also public. And it makes me think about the judgement of other people. I obviously feel uneasy/mortified with the proposition of others reading some things on this page. Shame is at the center of it. Shame at being seen as weak, pathetic, failing etc. I cannot take cover of fiction here because these posts are chronicles of real life. They may not be whole truths but they encapsulate the truth of the moment in which they were written. Therefore, I feel exposed directly. Shouldn’t this material be hidden in a private vault?
But how pathetic will that be? To hide, to cower, and to edit myself because of fear of exposure and scrutiny. May be nobody reads this and I shouldn’t care. Maybe I should be brave enough to just write what I feel.
Am I brave enough to not care? In the first instance, I restricted the access to this page on my blog. Then, as I grew more restless, I unpublished it. Clearly, not very brave in the first instance. A more cowardly thought arrived: that I should erase the parts which grate my thin skin, and publish the rest. But that is just so dishonest. I couldn’t do that.
In moments of doubt I turn to my Bible. I remember the speech given by my favorite screenwriter Charlie Kaufman at BAFTA screenwriters lecture 2011 about value of authenticity and honesty in the field of creativity. I have saved the transcript and I read it often. Here is what he said:
I do believe you have a wound too. I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone. I do believe it is the thing about you that must be hidden and protected, it is the thing that must be tap danced over five shows a day, it is the thing that won’t be interesting to other people if revealed. It is the thing that makes you weak and pathetic. It is the thing that truly, truly, truly makes loving you impossible. It is your secret, even from yourself. But it is the thing that wants to live. It is the thing from which your art, your painting, your dance, your composition, your philosophical treatise, your screenplay is born.
He could very well be speaking to me directly.
He goes on:
What can be done? Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope.
Here is where he quotes Harold Pinter:
A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that, the writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb, you find no shelter, no protection, unless you lie. In which case, of course, you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.
And thus I have arrived at the solution to my conundrum.
It is what it is. This is a personal blog. Where else would private wounds, aches and agonies, and shameful admissions find their rightful place?
I don’t want to lie. I don’t want to write to embellish myself. And most importantly, I don’t want to hide.
About other people — people who are not me — I don’t write for people who are not me; I write solely for myself. If other people like it, that is alright. But I am the master of my province. Their judgment is less than worthless, as far as this goes.
I have found my spine. The piece, as it is, stays. Screw shame.
I am linking this artwork that I made. It goes well with this article.