Why Choosing to Be Visible Makes You Vulnerable and a Better Writer by Author Vangile Makwakwa

Image by Flickr user eshplagami

Please help me welcome back South African writer and renowned speaker, Vangile Makwakwa as she discusses author visibility and getting visible. Enjoy!


Marianne Williamson says, Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

As a child I learned that being visible wasn’t safe, which is weird because I’m an extrovert.

The weirder thing is that I’m not just a writer – I’m also a poet, and not just a poet, but a spoken word poet so you’d think being visible comes easy to me.

As I grew older I learned to control my visibility – I was visible and outspoken at school, when I knew it would be most valued.

But I was never visible when it really mattered – in relationships or in my writing.

Being invisible kept me safe.

Being invisible kept me safe from criticism and rejection.

I learned that I could still write, as long as I kept myself out of my writing, never stood for anything and never let my writing become personal.

I never took any risks in my writing and stuck to the rules. In fact, I loved following writing rules and secretly envied those writers that chucked them out.

Looking back now, I understand that I was terrified of failing and making mistakes.

How does the decision to remain invisible affect writers?

• You support other writers more than you support yourself – you choose to ignore your own light because then you’d have to do something about it

• You edit yourself out of your work – you don’t show yourself in your writing and never take a stance or fight for your characters’ personalities to come through

• You choose impress people rather than connect – you write in complex language so no one ever gets you; it’s like a guy who enchants a girl by using big words

• You actively choose to play small – playing big would mean shining, which could lead to criticism or rejection

• You come second or third in your world and other people’s needs matter more so just the thought of you putting up boundaries to focus on you is scary

• You feel guilty charging for your services as a writer because that actually means the work you do matters. (I used to get acid re-flux for days before billing clients for anything.)

Choosing to be vulnerable makes for better writing

The decision to remain invisible, kept me protected for years; until it didn’t any more. My mind had to invent new ways of keeping me small. This often led to self-sabotage and eventually writer’s block.

The day I made the decision to become visible and shine is the day I changed my life as a writer. I decided to show myself in writing, to share all my failures, my successes with readers.

I chose to be vulnerable and this made me a better writer and poet.

Apart from getting my book published, it also changed the way people connected with me. 

Whenever I send out a newsletter to my mailing list I receive lots of email responses (not comments or tweets) from people sharing their most intimate life and money stories with me.

In most of these emails people tell me that I’m the only one they’ve shared this with, not even their significant others know the things they tell me. It took me a few months to understand that people were opening up to me because I was opening up to them in my writing.

As a writer all I’ve ever wanted to do is connect with people and I’ve come to realize that the way to do that is to show myself.

Choosing to shine

Being visible, means allowing ourselves to shine and be acknowledged for who we are.

How can we commit to being visible and vulnerable in our writing?

• Acknowledge the fear of shining and then let your conscious mind deal with it through affirmations or visualizations

• Learn your behavioural patterns – understand how you sabotage yourself and consciously work on changing those behavioural patterns

• Get personal in your writing – stop editing your voice out of your writing, show emotion, allow your beliefs to stand out

• Invite the critics – not everyone is going to agree with what we have to say and that’s okay as long as we remain authentic to ourselves

I leave you with a quote by Marianne Williamson,

“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.



Vangile Makwakwa

Vangile Makwakwa, Author

Vangile Makwakwa is a renowned author and speaker. Her personal finance blog explores the link between emotions and financial behaviour. Her recent book has been voted the top 15 must read books in South Africa. Connect with Vangile @vangilemakwakwa.

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