I’ve written about it all: my sex life, sexuality, my body, politics, and my faith. And it’s all been online. People are mean, my personal life becomes everybody’s business, and I have friend’s tag me in posts about sex that my family can see. While being vulnerable through public writing is not easy, for me at least, it’s very much worthwhile.
Before I get into how I’m able to be vulnerable and how I protect myself, let me tell you why it’s been worthwhile for me:
- I’ve figured out so much about myself because of my writing, and I wouldn’t be as motivated to write as much as I do if I knew it wasn’t going to be published.
- People have reached out privately to thank me and tell me what my work means to them. If you’re vulnerable, eventually it’ll happen to you, too. It takes a while.
- I know I’m strong enough to be brave so that other people don’t have to be. It makes me feel good about myself.
Here’s how I’m able to be vulnerable
- I do a lot of soul-searching. I pray. I journal. I revise and revise and revise. I try not to do things half-assed, so when a piece of me gets put online, I believe in it.
- I write about things that I value. I don’t write solely for the money, and I don’t write things just because I think they’ll sell. Yes, people do that. You might be tempted. You’ll only hurt yourself in the long run.
And here’s how I protect myself
- I’ve learned the hard way not to compromise.If an editor wants me to make changes I’m not comfortable with, I argue and/or pull the piece. I’ve had to learn that I’ll get another chance, and not everyone is worth working with. Not every site is worth writing for. Maybe my work needs a new home. The integrity of my work and my emotional safety are both more important.
- I have someone else read the comments for me … or I just ignore them.A lot of writers I know avoid the comments altogether, and I think this approach is just fine. But, sometimes it can be really meaningful to know that someone out there appreciates what you’ve written! Asking a friend or your partner to read the comments and summarizing the best of the best can be really helpful.You don’t need to absorb the hate. Trolls and negative criticism via a comment really aren’t worth it. Seriously. There are better ways to get constructive criticism.I’ve also had snarky remarks about my work or work of people I’ve edited on Twitter and Facebook. Ultimately, you can’t completely protect yourself when you put yourself out there. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
- I have readers that I trust look particularly vulnerable pieces over for me before I post them.A lot of my work goes through an editor, and I know that person will double check it. But my personal blog doesn’t have an editor, so for pieces I’m worried about, I’ll sometimes ask a friend to look it over. That way, if I get negative criticism on a piece, at least I know one person thinks it’s great.