…we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly. Brené Brown
I place a star next to the paragraph I just highlighted in my copy of Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, where she writes about the vulnerability of putting our writing out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation. She says sharing something we’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of engaged and Wholehearted living. It’s the epitome of daring greatly, especially for those who approach the world through shame. Shame resilience is called for when we believe that our self-worth is dependent upon getting a positive response.
As a memoirist writing as honestly as possible about shameful aspects of myself and my life, I dare greatly. For the past two years, I’ve been sharing my story with my writing partner. In addition to a recent manuscript review and Master Class at Mad Anthony Writer’s Workshop, I’ve been giving chapters to four readers for critique. The ultimate dare will be publishing.
The Master Class is facilitated by Nancy Pinard, a Dayton author and former short story teacher at Sinclair Community College and the University of Dayton Life Long Learning Institute. Out of the huge number of mature learners who responded to her class at UDLLI, a group of writers created a support group that continues to meet monthly. Those who were fortunate to be in her class, consider her to be the “Wannabee’s mother.”
For the Master Class at Mad Anthony, four of us submit 15-page manuscripts to Nancy who distributes them to us for critique. I am the only memoir writer. During class each writer remains silent as our work is critiqued. In addition to her appraisal, Nancy gives helpful technical suggestions and examples specific to our genre related to the craft of writing. After hearing everyone’s comments, we are permitted to ask questions or make comments.
My lip quivers as my turn to receive feedback approaches. I’ve already received a manuscript review the day before and have an inkling of what is coming. My character is about to be evaluated along with my writing. My reviewers do not like my mothering, a primary shame trigger for women.
While I am uncomfortable hearing their impressions of me, it is valuable in three ways. First, Nancy noted that I’m not beginning my story in the right place. Additional backstory (background information to more fully understand my character) was needed. Now I have written new chapters for the beginning and moved the chapter under review to ninth place.
Second, despite my discomfort, I am able for the first time to take in positive comments about my skill as a writer and my compelling story. Their interest is piqued in knowing what led to my disliked behavior and how the story turns out. For a writer, that is a good sign.
Third, as one who has struggled with shame for most of my life, this experience gives me an opportunity to see how far I’ve come in developing the shame resilience Brené Brown recommends. For a week, I withdraw and enter a period of self-examination. Were they right about me? Was I a terrible mother?
Wayne Tully Fantasy Art through Zazzle.com
My shame demon attempts to batter me with harsh judgments, stop me from exposing my shameful behavior, kill the joy and healing writing my memoir is giving me. Toward the end of the week, I begin sharing what I’m going through with trusted friends. In my experience, talking about shame renders it impotent. By the beginning of the next week, my shame attack has subsided. In the past, it would have taken months or years. I owe a debt of gratitude to Nancy Pinard and my Master Class-mates for giving me an opportunity to see the progress I’ve made. I owe a debt of gratitude to my friends who hold me up when my shame demon tries to sink me.
The middle of July, I’ll be daring greatly again at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop, submitting Chapter 2 for a Seminar dealing with manuscripts as well as another one-on-one critique.
I find a needed bit of wisdom in a quote by Adam Appleson, “Share whatever it is you’re ashamed about. You may think you can hide your shame by not talking about it, but in reality, it’s your shame that’s hiding you.”
My shame has been hiding me for far too long. I’m not writing about the shameful aspects of my life to attract attention. I’m writing to come out of hiding…to join the journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough”…to engage in Wholehearted living. Along the way, I hope my story will inspire others to do the same. And that means being vulnerable and daring greatly. And so it is.