Vulnerability is a big part of life, yet one I’ve avoided the most. It took me exactly three hours to come around to writing this entry. The thought of sharing my thoughts and feelings about art and life freezes me from the inside out. It fills my stomach with a ball of anxiety and stress. And it hurts.
So procrastinate, I tell myself, “I’m sure there are better things I could be doing right now.” And if I try hard enough, I’m sure I would find fifty good excuses to not write anything at all. After all, doing nothing is better than letting oneself be vulnerable. Nothing is better than the possibility of shame.
Vulnerability is that part in between, a condition that, if allowed, could bring us great joy just as it can bring us sadness. Yet the fear of failure, of shame, of not being good enough paralyzes me in every aspect of my life. I can’t stop thinking, “How do I do this? How can I overcome this feeling that stops me from becoming the best me I can be?”
Once, at the age of fourteen, I decided that I wanted to write. So I did. It was a method of escapism for me at the time. Writing was a coping mechanism, an attempt to heal the aftermath of immigration, of life twisted upside down. It meant privacy when four of us lived squeezed into a little studio apartment in the city. I barely knew the language, but I also started writing in English. It made the journey a bit more challenging and fun.
I allowed myself to be vulnerable on the pages of my stories. It was easy enough to publish my work online and, with fingers crossed, wait to see if people liked the things I wrote. I was fourteen, but I’m sure there were worst things for someone of my age to be doing online. Writing helped me through my depression. Fanfiction was a fun playground for people my age to write about their favorite Pokémon or Harry Potter character. We could recreate endings, play with words, and share these creations with the world without being sued.
Now I’m convinced that when we were younger, certain things in life just seem so much easier and achievable. I know my work wasn’t always great, but the process of writing it was unforgettable. It was a relationship between my imagination and the page. The right and left hemispheres of my brain worked together to create.
Of course, six months after I put my work online came a dreaded e-mail.
“Hello, my name is Blank, and I would like to inform you that your story has been selected by members of the Bad Fanfiction site for review. I just thought you should know.”
I promptly clicked on the link provided, which took me to a site where a group of people had dedicated their precious time to criticizing “bad” fanfiction.
I knew my story was badly written, laughable. My goal was to have fun writing and improve my skill. I’m also sure the whole idea behind the site was well meaning, but it broke my fourteen-year-old heart to read its content. The comments ranged from “Yeah, it’s horrible” to “Why does she keep using that word so much? And why did she even post this?”
The voice in my head screamed, “But it’s just fanfiction people! I’m not writing a novel! Why can’t all of you just leave a review on my site like any normal person?” I felt the tears touch my eyes, and I couldn’t stop them. I cried silently. There was no wailing or hiccuping. There was only a burning pain in my chest and an uncomfortable knot in my throat.
My mother strolled by with a bag of laundry. “What’s wrong?” She asked. Everything, I wanted to say, but I didn’t. “I miss home,” I responded instead.
I didn’t know how to deal with criticism back then, especially the bad kind. I put so much of my heart in my writing that I was often felt with headaches. The opinions on this site were all just that, opinions. There was no constructive criticism for me to find solace in. And there wasn’t even a song to help me work through it.
So I stopped writing completely. It took me about a year to write once again. The “bad fanfiction” incident was a vulnerable moment for me, but it was also a great moment. Why? Well, I learned to receive negative criticism—the bad, bad kind. It took me a while to shrug and find a refuge in pages once again. I worked harder, and I’m still working on getting better. Consistency is often the key.
In the end, it’s not the idea of being a writer that “calls” me. It’s the writing itself—spending a rainy afternoon in the company of my imagination. I’m happy to report that three years later, I wrote something I could consider semi-good. It was great. The readers liked it. Today, I don’t worry about the number of hits or reviews. I write for myself, and I hope that other people will like what I write, too. But it’s not a requirement.
It occurs to me that enjoying art also requires vulnerability. When I listen to a song or read a book, my being is left vulnerable. Do I have to tell you how much I’ve cried over Adele’s songs?
On my last day on earth, I wouldn’t want to regret not writing my stories for fear of failure or shame. I wouldn’t want to regret letting fear of vulnerability, of shame, stop me from doing anything. If creating and enjoying art requires we become vulnerable to the world, then so be it. It’s much easier to try than to live with regret.
Thanks for reading.
Hello my friends!
Disclaimer: I have decided to relocate this post (removing it from my previous blog ) for self-indulging purposes. Let me know what you think.