Week four, day four of the A to Z Blog Challenge: Vulnerability.
In her book, Daring Greatly – How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” So does writing, for me anyway, when I’m mining as deeply as I can to bring the best forward in a story or essay.
One of the instructors in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte strikes right to the heart of this in one of his classes. Pinckney Benedict waited until we were all seated, instructed us to take out a sheet of paper (yes, it had to be done with paper and pen) and write a letter, using the correct form, telling someone something we’d wanted them to know but hadn’t said because it would alter one or both or our lives dramatically. Most of us didn’t have to think too long before we started scribbling away. It made me nervous to write the letter in a room full of people. Would he ask us to read? When we’d finished, he asked us to sign with our full names. Then he handed out envelopes. We addressed them. Put the letters inside. Sealed them. Perhaps you can imagine the increasing anxiety in the room. He asked us to hand them in. A few people held back at this point. (I suspect a few people held back in one way or another at each step of the way.) I handed mine in, feeling at this point as though I might be sick. I breathed. Sat back, let go. What would be would be. I’d written a truth that deserved to be told, even though it would change relationships. As Pinckney held our envelopes, he told us that what we were feeling right at that moment, if we hadn’t held anything back during the exercise, is what we should be feeling when we are at the heart of our writing. When we are in that place, we know we’ve made ourselves vulnerable, struck at a truth, looked it dead in the eye and decided to give it life and share it, even though (or perhaps because) it will alter lives. That’s definitely worth coming to the page for day after day.