This past weekend, I volunteered for the San Francisco Writers Conference, a four-day whirlwind of writers, agents, editors, and publicists. As a volunteer, I of course had times I was working and running around, but in the between-times, I could attend sessions and interact with attendees and my fellow volunteers.
Even though I have a novel in query stage, my main goal of the conference wasn’t to worry about pitching to agents. My main goal, because my time wasn’t 100% my own, was to meet people and to continue to plod along in building my network of writers and feeling my contribution to the writing community grow.
As I began to meet people, and talk about what I’m writing, I started to put this website and blog into words: what’s it all about? Yes, it’s a blog ostensibly about the random topic on my mind each Tuesday when I sit down to write. But it’s also writing through the lens of my depression and anxiety.
Coming from a background of Midwestern (not to mention the undertones of German and Norwegian) stoicism, talking about my own feelings and struggles very much contradicts my natural tendency to present a picture of perfection. Honestly, many times when I’m writing this, I can’t focus on the fact that it might be read by someone else—I very much have to first write for me, so that I can figure something out.
But the more I talked about my blog, and the more questions I answered about it, I became curious: what is this blog all about? This curiosity put me, almost accidentally, in a place of vulnerability. The words “depression” and “anxiety” started to stick less in my throat. The more I talked about my blog as centering on my own struggles, the more I could be curious about the reception it was getting: no faces wrinkled in disgust, no eyebrows shot up in surprise, no awkward throats were cleared in an attempt to change the subject, no one treated me any differently. In fact, the opposite was true: I was thanked for writing about the subject of mental illness, I was the recipient of stories of others’ own struggles, and to my surprise became more confident and sure-footed (sure-voiced?) in this place of vulnerability.
It makes me wonder: how often do I get so stuck in how I view myself, how I’m dealing with a problem or a decision, that keeping an open mind becomes an impossible task? It’s my experience that, often times, when I’m grappling with a decision or feeling stuck, I’m not truly being honest with myself—vulnerable—and therefore prevent any fulfilling outcome. I tie myself to an expectation, an outcome I want to force, rather than being curious and open-minded. If I’d been so stuck in a goal of “meeting agents to pitch to,” I’d have been stressed for four days, I’d have missed opportunities to connect and be genuine with others, and I’d have been disappointed and probably hard on myself for “failing.”
Vulnerability isn’t something that comes with brute force. It’s not over-sharing in a heavy stream of consciousness. There may be moments it feels like ripping of a band-aid: a deep breath before diving into words that feel uncomfortable and even painful. But the vulnerability behind those words: that comes with time and is helped along by a curiosity about the new direction the vulnerability may take me.
How are you curious in your day-to-day life? Comment here or on my Facebook page.