Today, we watched Brene Brown on TED… to think about connection because we’re getting connected to students at Oklahoma City University through our blogs and their wikispaces. “Connection is why we’re here,” says Dr. Brown. We’re down with that.
Embracing vulnerability is one way to make a connection that seems difficult to do in a society where we are all “connected” online, but in some ways, we’ve never been so disconnected. Substantially writing is one way of connecting.
Being a blogger in a writing class letting people know who we are–being seen is being vulnerable. It’s a hard thing to be seen. We can hide behind a 14-character Tweet, or a Facebook status update, but it’s hard to hide behind a big ‘ol blog for a class when you have to write a lot of posts and talk about things that are uncomfortable, or when you have to write what you really believe. It’s taking a risk, and that’s scary.
Will readers dismiss what we say or praise the words we write? Will readers believe we are worthy of their time? Will we feel we’re worthy? How do we get over the stage fright we all feel when others see our words? What will everyone in my class think about me as a person when they see my writing? Will that change how they see me?
Historically, a student writes, and only the teacher sees that writing. Sometimes, a writing class (I hope most of the time) is structured so that students see everyone’s writing, on a regular basis. Ideally, students should also have authentic audiences. I’ve seen students who are flattered by followers of their blogs–they’ve seen how they are worthy. Their writing matters. It matters not just for the teacher, or for peers, but for someone else in the world whom they do not know.
Being vulnerable as a writer is beautiful thing–what’s the point of writing unless there’s an audience? (Well, personal journal writing is great for writers. A writer’s notebook can be an amazing tool for producing writing, but it’s a private thing… until the writer chooses what parts to make public.)
Typically, writers want feedback–they want positive feedback, for sure–but they perhaps want to say something that makes a difference to someone and then hear about that. Even writers undertaking the forced march of writing in college classes want positive feedback–constructive criticism. (I remember giving my mother a draft of a 30 page paper I had written. I thought it was so great, so intriguing, so insightful, so well written. I was very proud and couldn’t wait to hear what she thought. After she finished reading, she said, “You have a typo on page one and a missing comma on page three. Other than that, it seems pretty good.” Huh?)
Or rather, people want connection; they want interaction (unless, of course, you’re Titus Andronicus). Writers are no different–it’s scary to admit we are vulnerable, that we might need others, and we are so OUT there with our writing on blogs. If we are rejected as not-worthy people, and especially as writers, what happens to us? We are pierced through our hearts and we bleed.
We might even be moved to say things like:
I hate writing.
English is/was my worst subject.
I have always been bad at writing.
I can’t write.
I’m no good at spelling.
Commas–nobody can understand those stupid rules.
We step out of the way of the thing that makes us feel like dirt, in this case, writing. We avoid it. We avoid having anyone see our writing because we don’t want to deal with that sort of ugly.
Blogging in a class–can’t get away from writing in public, can’t get away from having others read our writing, can’t get away from being vulnerable, can’t. We’re out there. We’re required to read our blogs, to make comments, to think, to respond, to share our own writing. It’s part of the class: required, mandatory, obligatory. No way out.
How hard is that?
Could be mighty hard, but it’s a good kind of hard. Brown said vulnerability, necessary in order to live a “wholehearted,” isn’t excruciating nor exhilarating for the wholehearted, but it is the thing that makes them beautiful.
Vulnerability is the connection.
Are we worthy? Of course we are. And how do we know that? We’ve proven it to each other by being our own readers, writing for ourselves. We did that.
We are the connection. And we are beautiful.