On Vulnerability

The part of the process that must be done on one's own, and the part of the process that can only be done together.

Part 1

This week I find myself in a very interesting position, because although I have done a gob of work—on the novel draft, which I finished on Wednesday; at the piano; on my chess game—I’m not ready to share or show any of it.

The work, across the board (two key, one chess) has been pivotal.

Is currently being pivotal.

Or maybe pivotal isn’t quite the right word, because that implies I’m pivoting, and what I’m doing is more like deepening.


Specifiying (you knew I’d get to “specificity” eventually).

I don’t want to share this work with you not because it would be imperfect—goodness knows I’ve shared my errors before, and analyzed why I made them—but because it would be too personal.

In other words, I have arrived at that part of the learning process that must be done on one’s own.

The part where you take on a new level of ownership, and because of that must protect what you’re doing as you work out exactly what it is you’re doing, since a lot of what you’re doing is new—maybe not to everyone, but at least to you, and the last thing you want is some well-meaning reader going “ooooooh I have an idea HERE IT IS.”

This is a different type of vulnerability than the type where I play Mozart for you and point out all of the mistakes in it, because that isn’t really me being vulnerable; it’s me identifying problems I know how to solve and telling you that I’ll keep working until I solve them.

This particular vulnerability is about me digging into problems I’m not sure I know how to solve yet—and the part that makes me vulnerable is not the part where I don’t know how to solve the problems, but the part where a well-meaning suggestion could collapse the original work I am trying to do on my own.

“Original” in this case referring both to the product itself, e.g. the novel, and to the process by which I am attempting to shape and improve it. This is not to imply that I am not drawing from Best Practices; only that I have not gone through these particular practices and processes before, and for now I want the experience to be solely mine.

I mean, there are aspects of this that I’m not even sharing with L.

But I’ll share more, when it’s time. ❤️

Part 2

There’s another kind of vulnerability—one, perhaps, that I am aspiring towards.

L and I were talking about it last night; the kind of vulnerability that comes not because you’re wondering whether or not you will make a mistake, not because you’re worrying about whether what you’ve done is “good enough” (while understanding, consciously or subconsciously, that you’re actually avoiding the work involved in going from “good enough” to “great”), but the vulnerability that is present when you are sharing your best work with an audience.

The emotional specificity that you can offer after you’ve mastered the technical specificity.

The opportunity to say something meaningful within the work, because you’ve mastered the work to the point in which you can make those kinds of choices—and the vulnerability that comes with knowing that the self you’re putting into the work, the ideas you’re trying to share, the connection you’re hoping to make, could be ignored or dismissed or misunderstood.

We saw an example of that kind of vulnerability last night; a performance that was so precise that the musician was allowed to transcend the technicality. In fact, I don’t think we thought about the technical aspects of the piece at all. We were too busy thinking about everything else that the musician was choosing to share with us, since those aspects of the piece were now available to be shared.

Sometimes you see, very clearly, the filter of “uuuuuugh I don’t know this part”—and you spend the entire performance rooting for the musician to succeed (or, if you are less [or perhaps more?] charitable, rooting for the kind of unsuccessful performance that might inspire them to go back to the practice room).

But sometimes the performance or the novel or the painting is so specific that all you experience is the complete, riveting, connection.

And that is a very vulnerable moment—for both the person initiating that connection and the person receiving it.

May we all experience it, from whichever side of the experience we prefer. ❤️

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