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A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves
Judy Reeves : Being Vulnerable on the Page

Being Vulnerable on the Page

By Judy Reeves

Writers expose more of themselves than any other artists. When we write about what matters to us, we unveil our deepest feelings. Sometimes even to ourselves and often when we least expect it. When we write about human frailties, we are writing about the fragile scraps of ourselves. Our words tell the truth about more than what we're writing; they also tell the truth about us.

No wonder writing often feels dangerous, makes you lurch from your chair, pace the room, and phone your best friend just to hear a reassuring voice. "Hi. What are you doing?" [Pause] "Me? Oh, nothing. Just writing." Meantime, the truth of your exposed and bleeding self spreads line by incriminating line across thirteen inches of cold white monitor. And that cursor just keeps blinking, reminding you you're not finished yet. Your notebook lies open on your desk, yammering your secrets to any passerby. You pour a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette, and snack on anything that might alter the way you feel.

Being vulnerable on the page is one of the risks of the job — it comes with the territory, as with performing a high-wire act with a new partner and without a net in a drafty circus tent. And in all likelihood, it's not something that will go away. You may become accustomed to the feeling, but you'll never escape the vulnerability. John Cheever said, "I think that endeavoring to be a serious writer is quite a dangerous career."

What to do? Take a drink of water, breathe deeply, stretch, go ahead and call a friend, then get back to the writing. A little distance may make you feel safer, but the very fact that you are feeling vulnerable means you're writing close to the bone. Stay with it.

I had to get over my fear of running through the world naked and learn to say, "Take me or leave me." — Steven Spielberg

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