Why Writers Are Vulnerable and Why It’s Okay

edit versionTo write is to be vulnerable. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

vulnerable: 1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded. 2: open to attack or damage. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

For the writer, vulnerability comes with the territory. The writer is unsure and uncertain of the potential outcome of their writing. But the writer is willing to risk it. Writers share a part of who they are with their reading audience. To be authentic requires vulnerability. A writer is writing to convey a message. Then they must document their message.  Sometimes the best way to do this is through personal experience. Other times it is through formal documentation.

        • The writer is vulnerable to private opinion. This makes them sensitive to others.
        • The writer is vulnerable to public opinion. This makes them carefully consider content.
        • The writer is vulnerable to legal action. This makes them check and document their sources.
        • The writer is vulnerable to critical judgments and assessments. This provides feedback and helps them improve their writing.
        • The writer is vulnerable to self-doubt. Over time this builds courage and resourcefulness. It proves staying-power.
        • The writer is vulnerable in failure and vulnerable in success. This proves that the learning curve and personal performance are worthy endeavors.

I think vulnerability is necessary in making a writer become a better writer. A writer can’t sit on their laurels. They must pay pay attention.

The writer is vulnerable to private opinion:
I recently wrote an article about suicide. However, I didn’t want to write it. Suicide is a sensitive subject in my personal life. I took a risk anyway because of its timely message. As a writer, I allowed myself to be vulnerable. The greater good that could be accomplished convinced me to override my discomfort and any negative fall-out I might receive.

The battle is first fought in the writer’s mind. Shall I or shant I? If the article is only about the writer, it is easier to decide. If the sensitive subject touches on others who share their story, that brings another element or dimension. Before writing the work, the writer must consider the other people’s feelings, their possible “take” on it, and their resulting vulnerability. Write a convincing argument. Then see what happens. Positives and negatives mean you’re being read. Take it as a plus.

The writer is vulnerable to public opinion:
The perception may be that the writer is on a witch hunt, or that they are seeking to unduly persuade others. Presentation and voice matter.

There are many layers to this quandary. Writers write about personal experiences and public institutions, and so forth. It is a delicate balance concerning the sensitive topics. Whatever is written must be factual. The writer is the business of communicating a message. Some in the audience will love it and some may hate it.  Some readers may even threaten or retaliate against the writer who exposes or condemns certain actions and behaviors. What is a writer to do? Present the material well, make the argument clear. Be circumspect. Avoid being mean-spirited. Rise above, be the bigger person.

The writer is vulnerable to legal action:
If the writer is not careful, if there is a lack of accuracy in the documentation, writers may find themselves ripe for a lawsuit or charge of slander. 

The dilemma comes each time the writer writes about something that involves private or public entities (which is just about everything!). The writer must be sure of their facts. Besides this, the audience of readers will be forming an opinion about the writer by what is written and the tone in which it is written. They will assess as they read.  Is this a blame game? A retaliation for mistreatment? Is this legitimate? Is it sensible, well-researched? Is it well-written. Do I like this writer and the way they write? Do I agree with its message? It behooves the writer to critically assess their own writing before its publication.

The writer is vulnerable to critical judgments and assessments:
The reader is both judge and jury. They can tear the work apart: its grammar, format, message, premise, research, documentation, and perspectives. People will interact with the writing. This is the expectation and purpose.

Objective criticism is helpful to the writer. The writer needs feedback. They also need to toughen up. Not every reader is kind in how they provide their contrary opinions. Some readers will rant about how poorly the work is written. Others take offense to its message. They may tear the work to shreds by detailing a long list of examples to expose the weaknesses embedded in the writer’s arguments. Other readers delight in a good debate. For this second group, it’s like saying sic ’em to a dog. These readers  feel compelled to set the writer straight especially if the topic is controversial. For every bad there is a good. Positive comments reinforce the writer. Notice what people are saying, fix what you can, and then move on.

The writer is vulnerable to self-doubt:
When a writer allows people in to observe their thinking and positions, they are giving their readers permission to dissect their writings, perspectives, and lives.

Some of us writers tend to be insecure.  Stop that!  In every situation the writer is given a choice.  If the writer decides to be objective, they will recognize the weaknesses in their writing and writing business and seek to improve in these areas. They will also learn to let go of the negative disses, the angry reactions that some readers level at them. A mental shield is erected within the writer’s emotions to deflect the vindictive attacks, vendettas, or diatribes. Self-assessment is a positive tool which will act as a propellent to help the writer improve and hone their craft. Celebrate the little things. It helps!

The writer is vulnerable in failure and vulnerable in success:
Writing which bears fruit means that more fruit will be expected. Writing which fails to bear fruit means that new fruit needs to be developed in a better way.

The nonfiction writer has a two-fold responsibility: to the reader and to self. Shakespeare once wrote these words, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” (Polonius in Hamlet) Whether the writer puts pen to paper as a form of emotional therapy and self-actualization or the writer teaches to enlighten from out of their beliefs and resources, they must seek to provide material that is rich in its message and deep in its content. Writing which is true to self doesn’t apologize for self.  Writing speaks. I have something to say, so I’m going to say it. Value is attached to its message.

The writer’s responsibility? Communicate well

The writer can harness vulnerability as a tool for positive growth. This creates balance in the writer’s mission.