Navigating Vulnerability

Picture by: Robert Pittman


Last week in my English class we peer reviewed our descriptive essay. At the very end of our discussion we mentioned how we all need to be more vulnerable. To not just give the flat dreary details everyone has heard before. But to be personal and truthful about the topic we are discussing.

A lot of our descriptions and even narrative essays we have written in the past are on very personal things. This makes it hard to open up and share those details to someone else. A person in our group wrote about how her grandma died and she didn’t know how much to add without making it too personal and emotional. This was a very upsetting experience and she didn’t know if people would understand.

That is the fine line that I think writers have to navigate. Do I stay on the comfortable ship or walk the plank? One path will lead you somewhere completely different. If you have ever read an essay with private thoughts versus an essay with ordinary commentary then you will see that it is easier to connect with the more private one. They are more able to identify with the essay that shares a very emotional moment. Most people read just like with sailing to be entertained or to get something out of it, neither of this will happen if you have a boring flat essay just barely touching the surface.

As writers, we have to know who our audience is and what they connect with. A group of teenage students is going to recognize with different topics than a teacher. This means that as a writer you have to know how open to be. You don’t want to be pouring out your deepest thoughts but you also want to make it unique and your own. What makes your voice different from every other writer? Take specific experiences and opinions and turn them into something many can associate with.

Writing about Disneyland is great since many can know what you are talking about but many people have been to and experienced Disneyland. What is going to separate your experience or viewpoints on Disneyland from the standard ones? If you realize that you do have an ordinary experience and although it may make you happy you don’t know how to expand on that then you should consider writing about something else.

At the end of every voyage every writer has to ask themselves, what is my purpose? Why am I writing this? You could be writing for yourself, for entertaining people, or for impacting people. You have to find what that is and shape everything around it.

After thinking about this and looking at other people’s essays and my own, I strive for being vulnerable with my essays. To have someone impact me just like a person in my class did. She talked about how she felt alone since it was her first time in a new place and she didn’t know anyone nor had anyone to talk to. I want people to feel the way I did in a moment, like they are walking in my shoes. I long for them to have my story tugging at their hearts.

I hope to take this topic and apply it to all of my essays. I have to remember that no one else was there to experience what I did; they don’t know when it happened or my thoughts during it. The only way for my readers to understand is if I show what is going on to them. Writing is a way to express oneself, so raise the sail and pull up the anchor. Go out into the open-ended sea.

-Forever Putting My Thoughts On Paper

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