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.

Explorer’s Notes: Tips for Roaming is our weekly blog where we share our visions as editors, as writers, and as humans. It’s our field guide to navigating the world. Join us!

On Daydreaming and Staying Hungry

Michelle Sikorski

I’ve decided to give up on my dreams.

Well, my daydreams.

I can’t manage a car ride alone without acting out my half of some imagined conversation. We’ve all been there. You defend your side of an argument you’re never going to have, or reconstruct witty dialogue you wish you’d summoned while talking to that cute barista.

Or maybe you do what I do: Imagine you’re being interviewed on some fabulous talk show. For me, it’s either Ellen or Jimmy Fallon. We’re old pals at this point. Ellen always hypes up whatever work I’ve made it famous for, and Jimmy is likely to laugh hysterically at even my most half-baked jokes. I come off enormously likable whether I’m airing at day or night. The audience loves me. My twitter following goes wild for weeks after the interview goes live.

And then I get out of my car and walk into the dentist office feeling satisfied and pleased and not remotely inspired.

As fun as it is to picture myself chatting with a talk show host or accepting my Prestigious Award or whatever, I’ve realized it leaves me feeling like I’ve done something. I think I’ve been spending this time rewarding myself for the mere act of wanting to succeed. I don’t need to reward that. I need to stoke it.

So I’m done imagining my fame. I’m trading masturbatory daydreams for the entirely unsatisfying reality that there’s so much work to do.

Daydreams are junk food. Don’t fill up on them. You need to stay hungry.

Explorer’s Notes: Tips for Roaming is our weekly blog where we share our visions as editors, as writers, and as humans. It’s our field guide to navigating the world. Join us!

we’re here.

If two roads diverged in a yellow wood, ideally, you’d be traveling in pairs. Someone could take one, someone the other, and you could meet back and report what each road was like. Or maybe you’re wandering through the woods in groups of three, or seven, or twelve. Maybe someone takes one road; someone crashes through the underbrush; someone climbs a tree; someone sits quietly, staring down the road less traveled and listening closely for the distant wanderer step, step, stepping toward them.

This is roam. We’re fascinated by artists’ ability to find their own paths away from a common starting point. We want you to look at our prompts and show us what kind of creative roads you can pave. Show us your weird, your romantic, your scary, your joyful, your “things we can’t anticipate because we are not you.”

We are here in pursuit of stories told by the only person who could possibly tell them. Thank you for showing us where you roam.

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