On Vulnerability

–ET Winn, April 3, 2019

I wasn’t taught that being vulnerable is the best way to write. But the best writing I’ve ever produced comes from writing about the things I don’t want to write about. It sounds simple. And it is, but it’s deceptively simple. To pick at the places we’d rather not visit takes a willingness to return to what we’d rather leave behind.

I should probably shudder to think how many people have read poems and pieces that are the equivalent of my diary. I’ve covered topics from my own mental illness to my experiences with addiction, all in admissions essays– an admittedly risky move that really has paid off. I’ve made myself able to be wounded, the Latin meaning of the word ‘vulnerable.’ I’ve shared things online the average person wouldn’t want their grandma to read. On Facebook. Where I’m friends with my grandma. Who definitely read them. And if she’s going to disown me, it hasn’t happened yet.

The return of grace, kindness, and openness has shifted my understanding of vulnerability from something scary to something necessary for creative growth. I may not be able to tease vulnerability out of you, or even myself all the time, but I want to give you permission to be so for yourself. To open yourself up to write the painful, the messy, the worst things that have happened to you. The embarrassing, vitriolic, sensual, shameful, and painful. To tackle your experiences of sex and death and see where you get reborn. To be willing to be wounded, to share the parts of you that don’t feel fit for public consumption, to reckon with yourself and come out holding a piece of writing that you’re proud of.

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