Vulnerability Olympics

The jump, the flip, the uncertainty of the landing. Also, the overuse of Olympic metaphors during the past few weeks. The point being, when you post your work on the Internet, you hope for the best, but have idea how it will go down. Also, if you take the metaphor of writing and olympic training too far, it doesn’t work out because you age out of  one with puberty and injuries and one you age in to with life experience and shit. You can be a young prodigy at either, but I would love to see a reverse prodigy at gymnastics. Semantics, semantics, senior gymnastics.

Sharing your written words is a jarring shift to a vulnerable place inside yourself. I feel more vulnerable sharing a short story than I do performing on a stage. I’ve been lucky enough to study with the legendary wise man of improv, Craig Cackowski, who is always adamant that when the audience comes in, they are on your side and they commend your bravery for just being up there. That gem applies to writing too — people come to your blogs/to read your manuscripts/poems and admire that you do it, and hope that it’s good. I allow myself more leeway in improv because I’m making a show up on the spot, I have the support of my teamates and I am making art with the ultimate goal of just having fun. Also, “wise man” makes Craig seem way older than he is, but it doesn’t make it less true.

To paraphrase Robert Hass, writing isn’t fun, satisfaction only kicks in having just written. I feel a sweet 30-seconds of satisfaction after writing a blog post before it turns into a bit a fear after pressing publish. I try to ascribe to the philosophy that it’s OK not to love everything you write because not everything can be the best thing you’ve ever written. If you want to get into the semantics, only one thing can be. Semantics, semantics, small picture, dramatic. The big picture is this: when you put your writing on the world’s biggest stage (looking at you, the Internet),  you are exposing the thing that might be the most honest reflection of yourself to the connected world. That includes strangers on the Internet, and if you’ve taken the brave step of sharing your work with people you know, it might also include your friends, your family and someone you met the first week of college and never saw again. And that’s absolutely terrifying, and that’s absolutely beautiful.


39 thoughts on “Vulnerability Olympics

  1. Victoria Drake says:

    What a timely, and amazing post Ashley!!! This is exactly what I have been wrestling with lately too. You have a wonderful writing style. Keep it up, whether it’s your best work or not. It’s all good stuff 😉 Cheers Ashley.

  2. Jeffrey Howe says:

    Live performance also has the advantage of instantaneous feedback, even more so than the internet. You can read an audience’s mood and adjust accordingly; in improv it’s not only acceptable but expected, even required. By contrast, editing post-publication can feel like cheating.

    Or is that just me?

  3. Curmudgeon-at-Large says:

    I find your remark that “[you] feel more vulnerable sharing a short story than [you] do performing on a stage” rather jarring.

    I’m just the opposite. I have no issue with a written short story, a written reply (like this one) or even a prepared speech. But extemporaneous speaking or improvisation in front of an unknown audience? Whoa, Nelly! No way!

    Maybe it’s the fact that I can hide behind my blogging persona. Maybe it’s the fact that I take the time to read and re-read my writing before hitting that submit button. I’ll live with the delayed response (or no response) I may get from my written words in exchange for not having to know, immediately and in no uncertain terms, the response that I would see in the faces of my audience.

    I, too, commend you for your bravery in just being up there.

  4. meesha says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one that dithers over pressing that publish button. I preview every post several times before publishing it. And even when I’ve done so, I immediately jump to the front page to read it again even though I know nothing has changed between my last preview and pressing that button. I always worry I pushed too soon, that there is more I should have said or that I said too much and should have pruned the post or that what I wrote will be considered nonsense. I always feel I could have written a better post if I just spent a little more time on it but if I gave way to that feeling I’d never get any post published !

  5. onecoolgriff says:

    Do those butterflies ever go away? I share the fear of the “Publish” button. Too long, too short, enough info, extraneous info, might I offend someone, and on and on. It always takes a few seconds after the “push” to think, “Ah, well. It is now what it is. Suck it up and get on with the next thought that pops into my head.” Keep writing, Ashley, and I will keep reading. Deal??

  6. brennagee says:

    Semantic, semantics, senior gymnastics. Love it!
    I’m getting braver with my blog posts. Sometimes I worry that I am not thinking enough about how many people will be reading my most private thoughts. I kind of have to block out that my aunt and dad will be reading my saucier posts. I have to in order to hit publish. I do however, think/worry about it the day after it’s published. I do believe the best things in life take courage.

  7. Steven Kanarian, MPH, EMT-P says:

    Thank you for the validation. I like the attack on popular strategies. I was just thinking how I missed an opportunity to link my Inside Track to Paramedic Class Success workshop to the Olympics. Your post validated that there are many of us who want to be original and not trite or predictable. I do enjoy putting my writing ‘out there for people known and unknown. There is no way to really know the impact our writing has. We just have faith in expressing ideas and sharing.

  8. thekramerkat says:

    You touch on so many poignant subjects. I love your turns of phrase “semantics, semantics…” Your thoughts on the vulnerable nature of putting yourself out there for the world to see is something that I haven’t heard many people say, it’s almost an unspoken thought of writing, blogging.

  9. Susan Bellfield says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps the risk in putting yourself out there is part of the allure…or perhaps its just our fundamental need to be heard. Either way keep writing, satire looks good on you! :o)

  10. Brandon Luffman says:

    As a person who is, in reality, quite shy and often dealing with self-doubt, I agree completely. It’s very hard to write something and put it out there. All you can do is kind of convince yourself that it’s not real and then click the button before you talk yourself out of it! LOL!

      1. Brandon Luffman says:

        I was relieved to discover that it does get easier over time. I’ll never be a champion self-promoter, which an indie author needs to be sometimes, but I’m ok with that. 🙂

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