Extreme Sport: Facing Your Fears

Vulnerability

So I’ve been on a writing retreat with my novel the last few days and am glad to get back to blogging!

And from the quiet space of that retreat, I return to say yet again: one of the most terrifying things about the artistic process is its vulnerability.

If you’ve ever seen The King’s Speech, you may remember the moment when Lionel warns King George VI that they’ll be heading into dark territory. They have to dig deep. They have to explore his past. Otherwise, Lionel argues, they can only address “the surface of the problem.”

And after some initial resistance, the King yields. He tells the truth.

He tells his story.

Today in my writing group, one of my mentors said he’d had to do the same. And then Bob listened to me read aloud my writing from the session. And then he pulled me aside.

You’re beating yourself up too much. As soon as you begin to get into the story, you pull back. You need to be able to get out of the way.

You’re an ex-Mormon, right? You’ve got this complicated history? You’re going to have to tell the truth about that.

You have to be vulnerable and write from first-person. From the “I”.

Otherwise, you’re going to keep coming up against this. This authority figure from your past who keeps beating you up. This censor. 

Damn.

Not what I wanted to hear.

Some of you may remember another writer telling me the same thing in November. My dance teacher, Amy O’Neal, has also pushed me to become more vulnerable, more risk-taking. And on Monday, I just took my first acting class. She’s already saying the same things. I enter all these spaces because I know I need to get more down-and-dirty if I’m going where I need to go as a writer.

Take one or two months. And just write it all down. Just tell your story. Get to whatever is beating you up from your past.

Put the novel aside, Bob told me. It’ll still be there.

Great. During and immediately after my divorce, I couldn’t touch my novel or short stories for a year. That’s not where I want to go again.

But I know he’s right.

They’re all right.

And I hate vulnerability. My idea of courage does not include vulnerability. Never let them see you cry. Never let them see it gets to you.

But that is exactly where we’re going, folks.

So tonight, I’ve set my novel aside. I trust Bob. He’s never steered me wrong. I trust Amy. I know these artists know.

So I’m going to tell my story.

And I’m taking you along for the ride.

It’s not going to be lurid. But we’ll be going into the dark, and I really don’t know what’s in there. I don’t know if we’re going to find a source of light. Or the other side.

I don’t know.

But five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, up through February 9th, I’ll be here. Telling my story.

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