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This blog is about vulnerability and how it connects with the creative process.   We’ve all had people in our lives so guarded we rarely see beyond their masks.  Occasionally, perhaps at times of great sorrow, rage, or joy, we get a glimpse, a spark, a piece of something we recognize as genuine.  Many guarded people see vulnerability as a weakness, as leaving themselves without defense and open to attack. I disagree.

What is often thought of as vulnerability is really strength. Sharing our deepest fears and regrets is a courageous and unifying act. Our vulnerabilities, not our strengths, connect us as human beings and help us to avoid the aloneness of never being known. Most of us have made discoveries about a dead loved one and wished we could have known this while they were alive. When I was going through my mother’s things, I discovered a box of poems she’d written. I was 29-years-old, had written poetry my entire life, and had no idea my mother wrote, too. I was stunned. And a bit hurt, as I thought I knew her better than anyone. Why hadn’t she shared them with me? I suspect she was afraid to be that vulnerable. But her fear was misplaced. It would have been a great gift and inspiration to me to hear those poems in her voice.

Readers of my blogs often comment or question the way I go deep into human emotions. They talk about the courage it takes to be vulnerable. And perhaps they are right. Perhaps vulnerable people are brave enough to be honest and true to both their hearts and their convictions. In this era of so many different modes of communication—Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, etc.—we select bits and pieces of ourselves for public exposure—more concerned with our presentation than with our true selves. And while I understand the necessity of a certain anonymity for public media, I can also see the inherent dangers in terms of self-knowledge.

Making any kind of art takes tenacity, a deep need to create, a belief you have something to say and, above all, the courage to say it. Perhaps all good art is an expression of vulnerability and suffering because of the way it opens the mind and heart to newness. For writers, making our characters vulnerable means we give them courage to show up and be seen. It is the most authentic state of being—this place where you are open to the darkness, the light, and all the shades and shadows in between. Being vulnerable allows you to write deeper, more emotional characters. How many times as writers have we gotten rejected by an agent or editor because, “I just couldn’t connect with your character.” Discover your most authentic self. Write about fear, pain, resentment and heartache—dig deep into your own emotions—and your prose characters will come alive. Readers will feel the connection.

One of the most effective ways for a writer to gain sympathy for a character is to expose his wounds. Vulnerability is the gateway to that exposure. Sharing deep fears and regrets can and does make us feel vulnerable, but it is an ultimately unifying act and will connect our fictional characters to our readers. When a person or a character is open, he begins to heal both himself and others. And so I challenge you to have the courage to be vulnerable in your lives, and in your writing.  Go forth and be BRAVE. 


 


Comments

Lois Rosen
03/22/2016 8:57am

What helpful advice as I begin my writing day. Thank you, Susan.

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05/23/2016 11:24pm

Thanks for this post I really helped me to gain more knowledge on how to have a long lasting relationship with others. You did a wonderful job of writing this blog it gave me an insightful and inspiring message on how to deal with life. Now I can see that I must be vulnerabilities can help me connect to other people. Sharing your deepest secret can help you to become a better person.

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03/22/2016 9:08am

Something I read by Laurens van der Post decades ago has stuck with me about this. He was talking about the Bushmen of southern Africa, and said that they "committed to nature like salmon to the sea". I took that to mean immediate and completely, fully immersed with all the dangers and without a single guarantee that a salmon would make it back to spawn.

That feels to me like vulnerability, nothing between my closest skin and the vast wild world. I've also found it's a kind of freedom, and a wonderful kind of innocence. It helps me live and write with an open heart.

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Martha Miller
03/22/2016 9:57am

You give me courage, Susan, to be a bit more vulnerable, even though it's scary. Thanks for the nudge.

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04/12/2017 6:59am

This was like a true revelation for me too. Don't be afraid to be more vulnerable.

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Chris
03/22/2016 2:00pm

Your writing and words help me to continually find strength to let go, open up, and be me!

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Anne stabile
03/22/2016 3:33pm

Great post and just what I needed to hear as I write my memoire. I might add that with vulnerability als o comes the clarity of strength. We realize where we've been and where we are and what it took for us to make it here. Thanks for another thoughtful read.

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Nichole
03/22/2016 6:02pm

Love this "perhaps vulnerable people are brave enough to be honest and true to both their hearts and their convictions." the struggle is real....Great read!

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Alison
03/23/2016 5:33am

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you."
Rumi
A very good post.

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03/23/2016 10:16pm

So true. It took me more than 50 years to learn that lesson.

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Katie
03/25/2016 5:41am

It is definitely a temptation to be "more concerned with presentation than with our true selves." This is a great reminder of the value of well-placed vulnerability.

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Martha R
03/29/2016 12:38pm

Here's a pertinent quote from Leonard Cohen: "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets through."

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susan domingos
04/02/2016 11:44am

Thanks for the reminder that is helpful in both life and writing.
Susan D.

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Barry
04/06/2016 6:47am

Great compassionate and inspirational writing as to how to live out one's life with interconnectedness, mercy, and bravery that remind me of the final word's of Steve Jobs:

I have come to the pinnacle of success in business. In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success. However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed. At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death. In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth. It should be something more important: For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood. No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me. I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love. This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.

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Charles
04/18/2016 11:07am

It's true--without vulnerability there is scant room for empathy and love. These qualities usually come to the fore as the brain ages, but unfortunately some politicians seem to be immune. Your blog is inspiring to the rest of us.

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06/07/2016 5:50am

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06/27/2016 11:30pm

This is the first time i am reading your post and admire that you posted article which gives users lot of information regarding particular topic thanks for this share

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