The Difficulty of Sharing

As a writer, the biggest problem I have is sharing my work. I’ve wasted a lot of time not letting anyone see it. In the past, I would never tell anybody what I was working on, let alone post it online or try and get it published. Instead, I would write a rough draft as quickly as possible, then stuff it away in a drawer without ever looking at it again. I got so used to hiding my writing from the world and even from myself… but why?

That’s where my problem with sharing connects to my problem with vulnerability. I’m currently reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. It’s showing me how much I hide in an effort to avoid being vulnerable and letting people really see me. I keep my writing tucked away, I never talk about it, and I never try to publish it because I’m too scared. I’m scared of not being good enough. I’m scared of failing. I’m scared of putting all of my honesty into my writing and letting strangers analyze, critique, and possibly tear me apart.

One of my favorite quotes in Daring Greatly is when Brené talks about how nervous she was to give her TED Talk. As she walked up to the stage to speak, she quietly said to herself, “Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

That is the kind of courage I’m working on: to be seen. I never let anyone see anything – not my inner thoughts, my writing process, or even the pieces I’ve finished and am proud of. That’s the number one thing that has stopped me from improving as a writer.

Sharing your art and writing is one of the most difficult things because it’s so personal. Letting someone else see your work feels like you’re splitting yourself open and leaving yourself completely vulnerable to be attacked. But what progress can be made without vulnerability? How can you gain any rewards without taking any risks?

“To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s also vulnerability.”

If you know me in person, then you know how much I love the podcast My Favorite Murder. I’ve been going through the catalogue and listening to earlier episodes when I was struck by a conversation in episode 78 “The Freshest Recording” where they talked about perfectionism. While listening, I had this sinking realization that this is another thing stopping me. Often times, the perfectionist in us drives our fear and stops us from not only improving, but connecting with others as well. I’ve been working on pushing myself to share more of my work, but I have stopped myself so many times because the poem or story isn’t “perfect” yet. I don’t want anyone else to see it until it’s completely “perfect.” But what does perfect even mean? How would I ever achieve that? Why am I setting such impossibly high standards for myself when I still have so much I want to learn and explore and try?

In that My Favorite Murder episode, Georgia says, “You don’t have to be perfect, just fucking do things.” And Karen adds on, “Just fucking do what you wanna do. You’ll improve later.” Perfection and fear of failing often stop us from ever finishing things, but actually finishing things is the most important part. The more we finish things and the more we share them, the more we can improve and learn about ourselves. Listening to that conversation felt like a groundbreaking moment for me, and I never expected it to come from a podcast about murder, but everything they said felt completely true and honest.

So I’m grateful I started this blog. Right now it feels like I’m the only person reading this, but it’s still a huge step for me. Sharing my work, improving, and not worrying about being perfect are all things that will make me a better writer.

I’ve also been sharing my poetry on my Instagram. I started doing this a few months ago, but in a moment of self-doubt, I deleted all of my posts and recently started over. This time I’m not going to delete anything. I’m going to share my writing (no matter what stage of development it’s in) and keep on trying to learn. Not everything I post will be my best work or “perfect,” but I need let go and put myself out there.

Perfection doesn’t matter; All that matters is that I’m doing it. Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen.

Weekly Reads: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

At the beginning of this year I promised myself I would start reading more – something I always say but easily get distracted from. Unfortunately I am a slow reader. Novels take me longer than they should and they often feel like a chore. But I was committed to my promise of reading more, so I decided to focus on short stories instead. It was an easy way to explore new styles and writers I hadn’t been introduced to yet, and it also felt less daunting than that giant stack of books I keep avoiding.

With the ever-growing list of short stories I’m reading, I’ve decided to regularly share them here with a Weekly Reads post. I’ll talk about some of my favorites and what they’re teaching me about writing.

First up is a story I read in January: “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez. It was the first Marquez story I ever read, and I fell in love with him from the title alone. Three months into 2019 and it is still one of my favorites out of the 60+ stories I’ve read so far.

Marquez, a Colombian writer born in 1927, was a part of the Latin American boom of literature in the 60s and 70s. In 1982 he won the Nobel Prize for literature, and he has been cited as one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. He wrote numerous short stories and novellas, but he is perhaps most well-known for his novel 100 Years of Solitude (which has been in my To Be Read pile forever).

Marquez has a very exploratory way of writing. In fact, he said that he never tries to stick to one style:

In every book I try to take a different path… One doesn’t choose the style. You can investigate and try to discover what the best style would be for a theme. But the style is determined by the subject, by the mood of the times. If you try to use something that is not suitable, it just won’t work.”

Although I have only read three short stories by Marquez, I’m already inspired by his flexible approach and his willingness to try new techniques. He explores the boundaries of reality and mythology, weaving in the ever-present theme of solitude. He has a unique way of breathing new life into the simplest things and revealing it with the use of magical realism.

Magical realism is a literary movement that uses the supernatural as an ordinary part of reality. The most fantastical elements become a mundane part of everyday life. It’s extremely popular in Latin American writing, and many readers are introduced to it through the works of Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges.

In “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” magical realism flows through the entire story, starting with the very first paragraph. One day during a storm, a family discovers an old man lying in the mud in their backyard:

“He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous wings.”

This man’s wings are mentioned in such a matter-of-fact way that it seems totally normal. Of course he has wings, why wouldn’t he? That’s the power of magical realism; it brings the most magical ideas down to our regular life.

Unfortunately for this old man, his wings are in such terrible condition that he can’t get out of the mud and fly away:

“His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud.”

A neighbor woman who knows “everything about life and death” comes by and plainly tells the family that he is an angel. The family puts him in a chicken coop in their yard, and the entire town comes by to check him out. They prod and stare at him, waiting to be entertained by this caged creature that is completely apathetic to its surroundings. But the town is soon distracted by a different attraction: a traveling show featuring a sad girl who was turned into a spider because she disobeyed her parents.

I was instantly captivated by the way Marquez mixes the natural with the supernatural. There is this sense that we take the most beautiful parts of life for granted; we aren’t impressed by even the most magical things, but in some way we still expect them to happen. It feels similar to reading old fables or mythology, and yet it is so relevant to modern life. To me, these elements make it feel like the classic idea of a story.

I hope I can replicate some of Marquez’s insights and curiosity into my own writing. He has such a unique perspective on life, and I want to share my own through similar fantastic story elements. I have only read three of his short stories so far, and there is still so much of him I want to explore. Just looking at some of his other titles already has me intrigued:

  • Bitterness of Three Sleepwalkers
  • Nabo: The Black Man Who Made the Angels Wait
  • The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World
  • The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother

So I will keep studying the work of Gabriel García Márquez and hopefully pick up on some of his brilliance. I will read more of his short stories and novellas, and I will finally attack my TBR pile with his masterpiece 100 Years of Solitude. In the meantime, I highly encourage you to read “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” here or in this collection of his stories.