Wow. Here I am, two months after the launch of EMU’s Debuts, bringing up the rear. As of today, we here at EMU’s Debuts have rolled through a complete rotation, in which each of us has written a Monday post on the topic of our choice, and each of us has also written a follow-up Wednesday post in response to one of our colleague’s Monday posts. Our rotation repeats after today. So here I am, bringing up the rear.
Coming full circle. Happy Completing-The-Rotation-Day, EMU’s Debuts and fans!
Okay, true confession time. What I am really doing is procrastinating. How does someone follow up a post like Lynda’s from earlier this week? She talked about vulnerability. She talked about shifting perspective. She talked about brushing yourself off and getting back to your feet and making your dreams come true! Heck, I was so inspired just from reading it, I immediately queried six or eight agents right then and there!
Memo to self: try to get those emails back before they get read—or before Erin Murphy reads this blog post.
Okay, okay, I’m kidding here. Probably because Lynda said something that resonates so deeply it’s terrifying, and I’m trying to hold it at arms length by kidding around.
She said (deep breath!)…
we have to be vulnerable. We HAVE to be VULNERABLE.
Yeah. Okay, so anyway, a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar—
No, Jeannie, get a grip! Don’t blink. Don’t flinch. Say it, Jeannie. We HAVE to be VULNERABLE.
Vulnerability—cracking yourself open, as Lynda so aptly put it—is at the heart of what we do if we write.
Is there a career path out there with a more cruel paradox than this? First, take a person who lives mostly in her head because she’s always been a bit introverted—heck, she might even have been, just hypothetically, say, the fat kid with glasses in grade school which is why she fell in love with books in the first place—convince her to lay her heart open on paper, then have her send it out into the world of normal people, where it will be judged for its professional and economic value by people who aren’t particularly focused on sparing her feelings. Oh, and while you’re at it, why don’t we throw in the BONUS feature of extreme competition–only one in ten heart-spillings-on-paper (aka manuscripts) is going to meet with success!
Anyone puking in the toilet yet? Let’s face it. Vulnerability sucks.
And yet, Lynda is right, we HAVE to be vulnerable. So why would anybody do this—especially anybody who, as the fat kid with glasses, acquired enough humiliation in fifth grade alone to shred a life-time’s worth of self esteem?
That’s the question I’ve been contemplating since reading Lynda’s post on Monday. For me, I think the same experiences that drove me into my head as a kid, drove me back out as an adult, and as a writer. To me, being vulnerable is hard and scary, but it is also so, so, SO affirming. Putting my heart and soul on the page and having a reader say, “wow, that’s just how I feel too!” makes me realize that even in the years I was in my head, I wasn’t alone. That the me that had to hide was a person of value, a person who has something to say, a person who (and here’s the biggie) can change the world, at least for one other fat kid with glasses out there who can find friends and solace and joy on the page.
I remember very well the moment when I had to decide what I was doing with my writing—was I going to just write as an outlet for myself, or was I going to reach for publication? My biggest fear in that moment was that the business of publishing would ruin the joy of writing. I wrote because it gave me joy, did I need more than that?
Weighing against that was the complete invisibility of my art if I didn’t put it out there. I realized that if I was a painter, or a sculptor, or a potter, my art could hang on the wall or sit on the table and people would walk by and see it. I could sell it at a local craft fair and someone would enjoy it. But a manuscript? How else is anyone going to see that?
That was the moment of my perspective shift. And I don’t mean I wanted fame. I wanted to be heard—be understood, be ALIVE, and have the joy of my living reaffirmed in the world—that was what writing became about after that moment.
That was the shift in perspective that made the risk of vulnerability worth it.
Was it easy? Did it come with humiliations and stinging rejections? Were there times I wanted to be puking in the toilet? I think we all know the answer to those questions. But if you have been following along here at EMU’s Debuts for the last few months, you also know about the sweet spot, the tears of joy, the relief, and the sheer joy that are part of the process too. Perspective is all about keeping the highs in mind when you meet the lows. Writing comes with both, if you keep at it.
And so, as we wrap up our first rotation here at EMU’s Debuts, Lynda made this brilliant observation: “Maybe I need my own action figure.” I think everyone does who dares to put their vulnerability out there to create something beautiful.
So here they are, coming soon to a retailer near you: The all new EMU’S DEBUTS ACTION FIGURES (you know you want them!):
The Lynda Mullaly Hunt, that comes with red knee-high boots, and a sports car (perfect for long drives to meet dream agents!)
The Cynthia Levinson, that comes with a tidy writing desk and fights for truth, justice, and civil rights. Comes with amazing civil rights marcher dolls that want their story told!
The Mike Jung, funny, happy, and (of course!) comes with a specially hinged jaw and a selection of shoes that fit within it!
The Michele Ray, that comes with a LOT of hats to wear, and cries when you squeeze it!
The Natalie Lorenzi, that comes with twenty-five admiring letters, and one very sweet spot!
The L.B. Schulman, that comes with so much empathy she only whispers her good news politely when you pull the cord!
The J. Anderson Coats, that comes with a flooded basement and a lot of common sense about what to say in public!
And the Jeannie Mobley, that comes with deeply buried insecurities, and a pretty bad joke about a priest, a rabbi, and a minister!
But all of them are writers, so they come with fear, determination, a variety of scars and bruises…
And best of all, a soon-to-be-published book. Because they dared to be vulnerable.
So go on. I dare you. And while you’re at it, give yourself a pat on the back and an action figure of your own. You deserve it.