Monday, April 15, 2013

Writefully Shamed: Vulnerability and the Writer

Like many writers I struggle with shame issues. What if I'm not good enough? What if people don't like my work? What if I never get an agent or traditional pub deal? What does that say about me? (For a great peptalk on the separation of work and self by Jenny Kaczorowski).

When I have thoughts like this I refer to it as "douche bag brain." My douche bag brain can be pretty ruthless. For those of you who don't know, I'm a bit of a self-help junkie. When I was turned onto some amazing work by Brene Brown, a research professor in social work who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, I was very excited. Her work is amazing and you should read her books and watch her TED talks here.

The main things I learned so many things from her work:

Other people have douche bag brains - it's not just me.

Living an authentic life is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it something that comes easily.

When we are the most vulnerable our brains are the douchiest.

Not too long after I began reading her work I thought it should be required reading for all writers because vulnerability is the name of our game. Ernest Hemingway called it when he proclaimed: "There is nothing to writing. All you need to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

We are exposed nerves masquerading as regular people.

And that's what makes us great. Our comfort with being uncomfortable is likely why we are such great storytellers.

As much as we may thrive in the margins of emotion we can easily fall victim to our douche bag brain's. Our thoughts can turn negative and self-defeating. There's probably no better example from within the writing community than the brave, beautiful, and talented Natalie Whipple. See her recent posts on the subject here.

When this happens to me my mind begins a continuous parade of every single embarrassing event of my life. It's a painful trip down Shame Lane.

And it's debilitating. I can get lost in those crappy memories. Sometimes I even chew good memories up in my douche-bag-brain-meat-grinder until they are horrifyingly shameful. These thoughts can stop me from writing, exercising, eating, and even showering (yuck, I know).

Luckily, I can identify my douche bag brain moments and do everything in my power to stop it. One cool bit of advice I picked up from one of Brene's books is to share your shame.


Unthinkable, right? But it makes sense because the event only has power over you so long as you treat it like something to be ashamed of.

Being authentic means becoming okay with your flaws. (note to self: stop trying so hard to be a Stepford Wife/Friend/Daughter/Business Woman)

To that end I've developed a series of posts to share embarrassing moments. I'll be posting them here over the coming months becuase if I share them with the world I can't hide them anymore. And hopefully someone out there can get a good laugh. More importantly, my trips down Shame Lane will become shorter and shorter.

I'm sure new moments will take their place. But that's okay. I'm not perfect, as typos in my twitter stream illustrate, and that's okay. Living a more authentic life means embracing the famous line from Wreck-it-Ralph (possibly the cutest movie ever) “There’s no one I’d rather be, than me.”

Are you trying you live authentically? What inspires you to be true to yourself?

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