It is a great ability to be able to conceal one's ability.
- Francois de La Rochefoucauld
This has been my mode of operation for as long as I can remember. I used to think that it was because of fear of success or fear of failure. I used to think it was cool to get out of daunting and overwhelming tasks by taking on less than what I was capable of in truth so that I could write privately. However,since I rebooted my life, I've been thinking a lot about why I haven't made greater strides as a writer within and beyond copy writing and consumer products, game scripts and teaching. Sure all of those things have kept me going but have never felt like "me". I always felt more like they were a perfect expression of that quote up there -- concealing my ability.
I don't know if the above link will work for you because I am still figuring out how blogs work, but I hope that it will. I loved this video by TEDxHouston with Brene Brown. So, if you can see it and keep it in mind as you read the rest of this post, you'll really get the full picture of what I'm writing about. If it directs you away from this blog, please come back...
Daily, when I sit down to write and am frozen in a paralytic conundrum, I feel that fear thing. Now, go a bit deeper. Why feel fear? What is there to fear? Something that comes up in Brene's talk is the concept of excruciating vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability when you dream you're taking a test and everything is going well, until you realize you're the only one in class who has no clothes on. Shame and blushing are overwhelming at times. The question goes from "why can't I write what I want to write?" to "why would I want to write???"
I just read a pot boiler mystery written by two women in the style of a Dan Brown occult mystery. As I read, even while I couldn't stop turning the pages, I had a running commentary going about how I knew what was going to happen, and that I felt it unworthy of my time. I was up until 3 am reading it to the last page this morning,mind you, but but but it was a pot boiler. What is that a sample of in my fear pool? That is feeling vulnerable, I suppose, followed by a numbing out to the joy of a book that kept me going nearly all night long.
Another example is "Eat, Pray, Love" which I've written about before with some disgust in these archives. A friend asked me to share my thoughts about the book, and again encouraged me to write about the difference in my own divorce experience. I phoo-phooed that as quickly as I could. Frankly, I don't care to expose myself. The feeling that comes up for me about writing extensively about my post-divorce life is nausea and pain, and post-divorce isn't all that bad. It is not that I'm unhappy with the outcome at all. It is that feeling vulnerable that I've been resisting.
So, I like this concept of authenticity being married to vulnerability. I believe it. I know that in my intimate relationships now, this is what truly makes them work. I am not uncomfortable with a friend who "unzips their arms and shows me their veins," as one put it a while ago. I am not afraid to show my ugly and beautiful parts. I know that is why I found such a good partner in my second go-round at marriage. In this at least I feel safe in my vulnerability finally. I don't feel like I'm burying some secret now.
Beginning my "big" project has been a fits and starts process already. Since only in the past few weeks have I started feeling normal physically, I've forgiven myself and have not given up. But, what I can tell you is that what I've been writing about here in the blog - point of view, voice, preparedness, practice, and commitment all have their roots in AUTHENTICITY. I am unable to move along in a story until it feels authentic. Unfortunately, when it feels authentic, my joy in the POV, voice, preparedness, practice and commitment is very temporary because then I feel vulnerable, and this on any given day is about a twenty minute process from start to finish.
My attention span is pretty short, I realize. My first inclination is to numb out. I reach for dark chocolate, a cup of coffee, or a stupid TV show. Then I am miserable because I haven't done anything. So then I start cleaning the house, cooking or worse yet FACEBOOKING. This pattern is so terribly predictable that I worry that I am not up to overcoming it. I don't know how to overcome my general feeling of unworthiness as a writer. Cringe! But day by day I'm trying to add minutes to my acceptance of vulnerability because I believe minute by minute I can become more comfortable somehow, as if by magic.
One of my writer friends suggests that was there a paycheck attached to writing these speculative scripts and novels, then of course, that would motivate us to get work done and get past the emotional namby-pamby fear and shame factors. I know that this is not true always. I have made a great deal of money in the past for copy writing and sometimes have nearly had to nail myself to a chair to finish the product.
The shame goes spiraling deeper into my psyche the more authentically I write, and yet only when I write authentically can I stay interested and intrigued. This tension of avoiding vulnerability and yet understanding that it is really the only reason to keep going has made my career field of choice a minefield...of opportunity. My first question is always, "how can I make this a blessing?"