What vulnerability are you still too scared to share publicly in your professional writing?
Personally, it took me a while to own up publicly to the fact that my day-to-day life is as messy as it is awesome. That I’m a travel writer who sometimes gets sick and tired of traveling. That I’m a single mom who doesn’t have parenting all figured out. That I had an abortion. That I’ve been flat-ass broke at times in my life. But you know what? The pieces I’ve written about these issues are the ones I’ve become the most proud of. They are real, they spark conversation and they give the reader the freedom and empowerment to share their own stories. I’m curious – what is something you think could be healthy and liberating for you to write an article about…but you are maybe still too scared to? What support would it take for you to write about personal issues that make you uncomfortable?
The big one for me was writing about depression — it wasn’t so much that I was scared to talk about it as I just never considered making it a public thing. But once I did, I had tons of people reaching out to me to let me know they were going through something to (including some close family members whom I never would’ve suspected). I agree, though, Cathy — the stuff that’s the rawest tends to be the stuff that comes out the best. The stuff that you get really vulnerable about (in my experience) also tends to not be the stuff that’s most pilloried by the trolls — vulnerability in you tends to evoke vulnerability in the reader. You know, assuming the reader is not a dick.
I was terrified when I wrote a piece for Quartz on my suicide attempt and the serious depression and mental health issues I experienced while doing my PhD. It was part personal essay and part reported (backed up with interviews and studies). It went crazy viral, but I had floods of emails coming in from people thanking me for sharing the story, that they didn’t feel so alone in their situation. It made the whole thing worth it to help others who had been in the same situation as me feel less alone and isolated. I could have just gone for the reported angle, but I think sharing my own story made it more relatable.
Similar to Matt and Jennifer, it’s my personal experiences living with a partner who has dealt with depression most of her life, and how it affects me. It’s not necessarily that I’m scared to be vulnerable about it, but it’s more of trying to find a way to do it that’s very respectful of her, and being very conscious how it might impact her (because there’s still lots of stigma about it). Totally agree, you “give permission” to others to be vulnerable themselves. The strongest pieces I’ve written, that I’ve connected with others about, are the ones where I’ve shared most freely of myself in a very vulnerable way. It can be scary, but there’s almost something “selfish” about it in that it’s cathartic and freeing, but at the same time most likely having a positive impact on others.