Creative Life Truths: You’ll Never be Great until You Can be Vulnerable

Creative Life Truths: You’ll Never be Great until You Can be Vulnerable — Write RightPeter Parker’s uncle tells him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” For creative people, the saying goes more like this: “With great talent comes great vulnerability.” Vulnerability, though, is uncomfortable, perhaps explaining why people — including me — try to skirt it.

I’ll be honest. I dislike vulnerability. It hurts to write with heart-wrenching openness. I would rather write about anything else but the thing that causes my heart to ache and my eyes to water. The vulnerable thing, though, nestles inside. It refuses to leave me alone until I write or draw or do something with it.

When I heed its call, something happens. It feels like…it feels like the words or art roar. The art comes forth, powerful and wild. I know this because I’ve experienced it, starting with a creative writing class at Hardin-Simmons. I didn’t know what I was doing in that class, but I started writing the way many writers do, with an examination of my history.

That historical record proffered something to consider: my experiences with faith healing. As I wrote, the writing turned into its own thing. It became, as my beloved Paul Celan would say, something other. I reached a moment of encounter, and, in reaching it, I understood myself in a way that was different from before.

Such writing, however, raises the risk of injuring people. For example, the poem I wrote about faith healing wounded some family members, with a few worrying I was having a crisis of faith. I felt guilty about hurting them and wondered whether I’d been wrong to write the poem. Maybe I needed to take my poetry in a different direction. (I did, perhaps partially because of the concern, but mostly because I grew bored with writing biographical poems. As to a crisis of faith, maybe I was having one, but I think it is good and healthy to admit doubts and work through them.)

Vulnerability is not kind to the person writing, and it often proves unkind to the people who know the writer’s history. I choose to move toward that place, though. I recognize that my best writing comes as I unfurl my spines and set down my knives. Surrender occurs, and in that moment, the art and the artist are utterly transformed.

Image: David Dávila Vilanova (Creative Commons)

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  1. […] The action seems to have worked; I still write poems, although I need to get back into a regular habit of it. The impetus? It rises from a desire to create, yes, but it comes, too, from recognizing that fear is necessary. Fear, when directed correctly, leads me to where the good stuff is—perhaps a different style, an interesting image, or simply the willingness to be vulnerable and open. […]