Recently I’ve spent a lot of time with the more writerly side of my work—the clients and workshop participants who aren’t setting out to build an empire with their work (though those dreams are often under the surface), but rather those who are connected to the craft of writing first, and sharing their work second. These are the authors who feel their story not only cuts close to the bone, but whose identity in telling that story cuts close to the bone too. (NOTE: Business and self-help authors can easily fall into this camp, too; it’s a heart thing, not a career or title thing.)
It struck me that there’s truth in the idea that writers are introverted, shy, private, clearly not the sales-y marketing types we seem to expect writers to be in today’s world of everyone-for-her/himself. But I wonder…. Is this really “how it is,” or is it partially true but also partially a myth? Is the introvert a personality trait as well as a persona?
When I teach, I often define “publishing” as “writing for an audience.”Many of us write. Writing in a journal or keeping notes and dream journals by the side of our bed seems natural and part of being human.
But writing for others—for a readership—takes guts. It takes chutzpah. It takes cajones.
The act of writing is aggressive, assertive, bold, fierce.
Who am I to have something to say that deserves—that commands—the attention of readers?
There’s power in words (they’re mightier than swords), and we feel that power internally as we put our fingers to the keys. The more urgent and important our work feels to us, the more strength, the more assertiveness, it can take to get the words out.
So, I wonder if there’s another construct for thinking about sharing our work. Can we own that assertiveness with our work—and perhaps passionately attack our work the way a ballet dancer attacks a fouette or a musician attacks a new piece? Then maybe we can take that powerful “inside” stance and carry it into the “outside” world.
If we have that strength “inside” ourselves, then we can take it “outside” ourselves. We CAN go public with our work and not be afraid we’ll be too exposed or defeated.
When I go to writers’ conferences and lead workshops there is often a huge light bulb effect. The inside and the outside come together. People are hugely interested in each others’ work, processes, stories, relationships, successes, and disappointments. Did you ever think: No one seems “stuck” at a writer’s conference, or any other conference, workshop, or live event for that matter. We might be shy, but we’re there, we’re thinking, we’re absorbing, we’re sharing.
If I look at my collective “showing up” experiences over the past two years, all of it has been good—even when I wasn’t 100% aligned with the content or philosophy. The individual connections, the experiences, the exchanges, the testing of my ideas and beliefs, all have had a lasting impact.
My “default” is to disappear under stress or confusion. Yet I teach people the power of going public and Showing Up. I think I’ve proved something important to myself and hope you feel encourage to test this Inside/Outside equation with your own work, schedule, and goals.
Not only does Showing Up bring our “inside” and “outside” perspectives together, the experience itself makes us dig deeper into the work we’re doing, clarify and push it forward, and experience sharing it.
Where can you safely show up and go “outside” of yourself?
How can you push your writing to be as powerful, strong, aggressive as possible? What shifts when you do?
What would it feel like to go to a writing class, retreat, conference with your powerful “inside” writer self brought to the “outside” context? Of course, the idea isn’t to act like your baddest character, but to see how you can tap into your strength as well as your vulnerability in order to experiment and discover opportunities.
What do you think about this loose exploration? I’d love to get your comments.