Vulnerability is Messy: The Truth of Being a Writer

Creativity is MessyAuthenticity.
Be myself — everyone else is taken.
Vulnerability is my strength.

Words to live by.
Words to feel.
Words to fight.

Conflict. External conflict. I’m not great at external conflict in my novels when I think of it as something separate from people. But I realize that conflict is between people. So how can make Dinah’s (my heroine’s) agenda conflict with Mark’s. My villain. I don’t know. He wants her. Why? And how can one 15 year old boy want a 15-yr-old girl in a way that’s true, real and scary at the same time? Bored. Not interesting. What is really interesting to me? I don’t know. I don’t really want to show you my messiness.

I don’t really want to show  you what it’s really like in my head. In my heart.

What am I afraid of?

“I don’t like you.”
“You’re not like me.”
“Don’t make me see myself, my inadequacies. Don’t make me feel vulnerable. Don’t. Therefore I blame you. You are bad because you feel so damn much.”

Truth? I don’t know. I only know that those are the voices I fear.

I break apart in front of you. I break into pieces. I am messy. I am human. Dammit. Why do you think I’m a machine? Don’t you know to create is messy? That’s right! Creativity is messy. Why? Because it is. The reason you’re afraid is well, your reason. The reason I’m afraid? Another reason?

Well, what’s the worse thing that can happen? No one can relate to me. My experience is so foreign that no one gets it. No one gets me and I get shunned. Again.

One of my clients just said to me that I’m a great example of creating even in the mess of things. I decided one day to go after my dream, even though I was scared, even though I didn’t know what I was doing, even though I secretly thought I would go crazy if I embraced fiction writing. Even though I had all these fears, I was tired of dreaming and tired of putting off what I truly wanted.

And here I am, years later, nearly thirteen years later, and I’m still writing in the middle of things, still facing my fears about fiction. And I got to tell you, it still ain’t easy. Just because I have the craft of fiction down, I don’t have the stellar story telling down. Because at the end of the day that’s what counts. A good story. For fiction anyway.

A page turner. A I-couldn’t-put-this-down book.

How do we do that?


The very thing we want to avoid in life we want in our fiction.

The other element we want are characters we want to like. At least that’s what it is for me, and lots of genre fiction.

One of my flaws right now is I’m trying to write too autobiographically. I’m not creative enough… I exorcising my ghosts, not writing entertaining, compelling fiction.

Am I writing fiction to be loved? If so, there’s a lot of other ways I can get some love from the world.

I’m a good teacher, excellent presenter, and care passionately that those who wish to write too. I know how to help others get moving in their writing; I help others strategically design their publishing path when all of their choices seem so overwhelming to them. I know how to sort out the noise from the gems.

But when it comes to myself and my fiction career, I have to say that I feel like a complete idiot, a dolt, and way, way behind the curve. I think I’m a voracious reader, but apparently my stories have all been heard before. Duh, all stories have been heard before. It’s in the execution. I know. It’s in the voice of the main character. My voice gets rejected. Apparently it’s not “something” enough. Unique? Catching? And that feels so personal when my writing doesn’t even get read by the gatekeepers of the publishing world.

I identify myself as an adventure writer at heart. But now I’m writing a paranormal teen romance that is starting to tie me up in knots. And remind me why I stayed away from this particular strand of young adult fiction. I actually think the romance has potential. But what is at once irritating me and making me want to walk away from the project is that I lack a strong external conflict, that I care about.

Mark –- the villain– only goes after the pretty popular girls, someone can tell Dinah – my heroine. And that can put Dinah in that position of being popular. But I want her to reject Mark…

I don’t know.

Back to this post…

Even though, my friends, I am questioning my novel, whether or not I should continue – it’s only 11,000 words right now – I will question it via writing. And I won’t give up on fiction, no matter how infantile and behind the trend I am.

Because I will write despite it all. Because to not be working on fiction is to be denying something very important to me.

Because being a fiction writer gives me meaning.

And so does helping other writers bring their expression, being themselves to the page.

What gives you meaning?

Declare it here. Be sloppy, be messy, be neat, and most of all be yourself. Damnit.

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  • What gives me meaning? Damned if I know — writing poetry, writing fiction, creating in general. Getting the stories in my head down on the page. Getting them out there. Just doing it.

  • Beth Barany says:

    Thanks Margaret. Yes, just doing it! Alright!

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