On Vulnerability

Remember my post last week where I was all happy and excited about Kara the Brave and continuing the story on Saturday? Well, if you read the comic, you’ll know that, for reasons more fully explained on its website, I’ve postponed the strip.

And now here I am, planning out the second chapter, and I don’t want to. This will not be a happy chapter. I mean, there will still be funny things and Kara will still be her usual overdramatic self, but things will be hard. Part of me — a large part — doesn’t want you to read it.

I don’t want you to see any side of Kara other than the silly, happy, overconfident eleven-year-old who jumps into things without thinking them through. I want you to love her, and chapter two is where you will find possibilities for not loving her. She’s going to be vulnerable and, by extension, so will I.

If you’ve read anything about vulnerability lately, you’ll have heard about Brené Brown. So, there, I’ve done my due diligence and mentioned her in this discussion (I actually like what she has to say; I just don’t want to rehash it. If you haven’t heard of her, do a Google search and you’ll find lots. She’s fantastic), and now I’m mentioning how she found in her research that being vulnerable is necessary in our relationships with others.

It’s also a prerequisite in creating art that means anything. Like, if you’ve read Kara the Brave, then you’ll know that she comes up against a big monster thing. Now, I could have made it so that she does this big dramatic flourish with her wooden sword and she fights the monster, defeats it, and the story would have this simple, happy ending. It would be a silly little story in the end, one that would make you smile, and one that you would walk away from and forget.

If you’ve read the comic, you’ll know that I’ve already opted not to do this. Kara did not flourish her sword. She did not charge the monster. She didn’t even say a word to it.

In case you haven’t caught up yet, I won’t say what she did instead. What I will say, though, is that I could still end this story without negative things happening. She could, at this moment, give herself this lovely, inspiring pep talk (or the Salamander could), and she could then, empowered by her words, defeat the monster. This version would have a little more depth than the previous. You might think about it a bit before you leave it. You might remember it as you go. Ultimately, though, I think you would sense the opportunity missed. It would feel a little too neat, a little too moralistic, and you might tell yourself that I was really writing for children all along (although I’m not not writing for children… if you catch my drift :) ).

So, I’m not doing that, either. Actions have consequences, even actions as silly and innocently done as Kara’s. And, as a result, you’re going to see a bit of my soul.

Creating anything worthwhile requires vulnerability. No matter how much or little, no matter how well or poorly have created, you know this. You know the difference between something created from the heart and something created to fulfil an obligation. If I were to think otherwise for even a moment, not only would I be horribly wrong, but you would spot it a mile away and take off without another word. You’re sharp like that.

Which means I have, have, have to be authentic with you. I have, have, have to be vulnerable. Anything less would be to infantilize you, to treat you like you’re incapable.

But I don’t, don’t, don’t want to sometimes.

I don’t want you to see the parts of my soul I have a hard time loving.

Or the parts I’m ashamed of.

Or the parts that are malformed, unfinished, under construction.

I don’t want you to see the ugly crossbeams and peeling paint, the stained walls and dark staircases that lead to nowhere. I don’t want you to see the warped mirrors and behind the rust-shut doors. I don’t want you to see the scraps of yellow wallpaper that keep trying to attach themselves between window-frame and baseboard, between spackle and hardwood, and which I’ve tried to eradicate but which still keeps turning up anyways.

Writing really is one of the most rewarding things one could do. Creating a thing with all of you and then finding that it has touched another, moved them somehow, brings a kind of joy I have not experienced elsewhere.

But, O, the terror of vulnerability!

I want to be seen as good, as harmless, as nice, as friendly; I want to be seen with only my palatable qualities, and none of my controversial ones. On top of that, I want to write stories that are worth reading.

Well. You and I both know that having all that together at once is delusional.

And I know that you deserve better than a soulless phony.

So Kara’s getting the hard path. Hopefully, it is also the more rewarding one.

Also, I want to say one more thing: if you’ve ever read a story (or seen art, listened to music, played a video game, etc) that changed you, reach out to the creator and let them know. Tell them how their creation made you feel. Chances are, they were terrified to create it. Chances are, your words are exactly what they need today to remind them why they do what they do.

Chances are, your words will move them as much or more than their art has moved you.

Because, when you think about it, saying “thank you” is vulnerable, too.

Thank you for reading. :)

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