Vulnerability and Forgivness in Writing

Writing is an incredibly vulnerable act. You put piece of yourself, however fictional, down on paper — sometimes something deeply personal — and offer it to the world to be judged and sometimes its hard to distinguish between the art and yourself.

In Writing Begins with Forgiveness, Daniel José Older writes, “Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations.” 

Older is specifically talking about the “write everyday” advice that has created a feeling of shame in many writers (I’ve been known to be one), causing a feeling of paralysis. However, this sense of shame and inadequacy also applies in other ways, from comparing ourselves to others and feeling like an outsider (as I found myself doing on Friday at the latest Glowing with the Moon open mic) to judging our words too harshly and not believing in the value of our own work (as I also found myself doing despite positive feedback I’ve received lately). Many writers I know have experienced imposter syndrome, the feeling that their work is actually stupid and uninteresting and someday soon everyone is going to find out.

It’s not always easy to disentangle the layers of self-doubt and shame that come as part of the writing process, but Older’s lesson of approaching writing with a sense of self-forgiveness is a good place to start. It’s something I aim to work on as I continue to submit my work and attend events in the coming months.

What I’m Reading

I’m enjoying Less Than Hero by S.G. Browne, which is about a man professional guinea pig for pharmaceutical testing and his friends, who through some strange combination of meds develop the ability to project their medical side effects onto other people. It’s kind of a superpower. Mostly fun so far, but I’m not loving it as much as I’ve loved other books by Browne (such as Breathers and Fated). However, I expect it will turn out to be a fantastic read by the end.

What I’m Writing

On Sunday, Allie Marini and I ambushed Lise Quintana into an impromptu writing session, which resulted in some butt-in-seats hard work all around. My personal progress involved a couple of poem drafts completed on the Twelve Dancing Princesses manuscript and a couple of submissions sent out.

Published! The Myth+Magic anthology is out and contains my poem “Red Riding Hood Remembers.”

Submitted! Two poems send out to two separate markets.

Rejected: Another rejection from a publisher for the Sincerely Yours chapbook, which means it definitely needs to be reconsidered in terms of organization and length.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish another poem or two for Twelve Dancing Princesses. Submit something.

Linky Goodness

  • Matthew Salesses writes on Moral Craft: Issues of Plot and Prejudice“Prejudiced writing is a moral concern and a craft concern, so I’m going to treat it as both. I should also admit that my concern comes from noticing a (mostly good) trend of white authors wanting to reflect the diversity of the real world by writing more characters of color.”
  •  This is (not) a Laughing Matter by Lindsey Hall – “Humor, I believe, is as effective a tool and as difficult a form of expression as anything else. Ultimately, humans seek pleasure, and writers hope to entertain, to arouse and sustain a reader’s interest. We have stories of suffering that must be told, and humor is a viable conduit. Comedy helps readers connect with characters; comedy helps readers swallow uncomfortable or painful truths.”