The Vulnerability of Writing
“Being Vulnerable on the Page: Our words tell the truth about more than what we’re writing; they also tell the truth about us.” ~Judy Reeves
When I began to write my story for the ninth Heal My Voice book, I remember sitting in the living room, hands hovering over the computer keyboard and feeling hesitant to type any words. The book was called, “Sensual Voices: True Stories by Women Exploring Connection and Desire.” All of the women wrote stories about a woman’s journey with her body. Stories of menstruation, pregnancy, breast feeding and swimming in a lake. Some of us wrote about a journey with our sexuality. I knew that was the story I was compelled to write and I could feel the fear of writing about my personal experiences and revealing secrets. At first, I was afraid to even write it for myself! Then, I was afraid that if I published it, my reputation would be tarnished. I felt that people who had different experiences would judge me. I felt that everything I had committed to and built with Heal My Voice would be destroyed, including harming the women who had written stories in all the books. I even had a back lash from my mother one night, when she saw the description of the Heal My Voice project on my website. Sensual Voices: True Stories by Women Exploring Connection and Desire. She said, “Who are you to lead that project? What qualifications do you have? Why is this on your website?”
Whoa! I got whacked emotionally for about an hour. Luckily, she sent this through email and I read it while I was sitting at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Maryland with a cup of coffee and a delicious meal. Pausing to eat the piping hot food that had just arrived at the table, I waited to respond, until a feeling arose in me and I wrote her back and claimed my voice. It was a huge breakthrough AND it was the 9th Heal My Voice book. I was not new to writing and not new to expressing feelings and emotions for all the world to see. I had experience with the vulnerability of my inner writer voice. (And FYI: I have a background in women’s health, social work and had recently taken a year long program about women’s sexuality and I am a writing coach.)
But here’s the thing. Every time, I reveal something about myself in a blog, on a radio show or in a book, a wave of vulnerability comes. I feel it is a part of the writing process to uncover and feel the feelings. For this project, I had support, experience, I felt the feelings and I moved through it faster.
As a writer and a leader of groups of women writers in The Writing Incubator, I know that vulnerability arises as a part of the process:
“Why aren’t my words flowing?”
“I don’t have time to write.”
“I feel lost in this program.”
“I’m behind everyone else.”
“I’m doing it wrong.”
“I’m scared to be seen.”
I see it all the time in the on-line writing programs as well as experience it myself. There is a desire that rises because you feel compelled to write something. There is a “yes” to “The Writing Incubator” space that comes with a layer of vulnerability of being seen in community. Then, there is the vulnerability of writing feelings or a story on paper or the computer. And THEN, the idea that you would share this with someone else! The vulnerability of the truth that is your life, the exposure of how you describe your feelings and words, the fear of rejection, etc…
The feeling of vulnerability is always present. Every story I have ever written in a Heal My Voice book, or a blog (especially being a guest blogger) or in my books on Amazon, trigger the voices in my head that are telling me I shouldn’t write.
Underlying all of these fears, maybe women are also afraid of a collective energy. Call it the fear of being exposed for book burning or the burning of witches at the stake. Or a myriad of other ways that women have been burned physically and emotionally for speaking up. It can be a deep imprinting from the past. I encourage you, as you begin to write, to find a safe place to express yourself, to be witnessed and and to practice sharing your voice. Build the muscle by sharing your voice in community.
One more thing. I have also felt or heard women say:
Hasn’t someone already written this story?
I’m not an expert.
Who am I to write this book?
You are here to write what you are compelled to express and share. It begins with writing for yourself. That may be in a journal. You may write to redefine your work. You may have a program to design or a blog to start or a book to write. You are the only person who can write a book in your vibration and with your exact experience. The possibilities for self-expression are infinite.
A few writing prompts for your own reflection:
*Turn up your awareness, every time you write or every time you think about writing.
*What are the words you are hearing in your head?
*Are they stopping you from writing?
*Find one thing you can say to yourself whenever you hear the words. Create an affirmation. Or write a few words on a sticky note that will help you remember who you are. “I am Writer and I have something to say.”
Andrea Hylen: Author of Heal My Voice: An Evolutionary Woman’s Journey. Creator of The Writing Incubator, on-line writing community. www.andreahylen.com