Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Exposing Myself

Years ago, when I first heard about people blogging, I confess I didn’t understand the appeal. Why would someone want to write their thoughts for the world to read? And why would I want to read what someone else wrote? I’m sure much of that reaction was because I’m essentially a very private person. I’ve known people who, when you ask their name, you get their life story. That’s not me. There are people who have known me for years that probably couldn’t tell you one personal thing about me.

But I’m making the effort to change. I work with the recovery ministry in the church I attend and last month I gave my testimony. Speaking in front of a group isn’t difficult for me. I am, after all, an ordained minister. (See? You didn’t know that, did you?) But telling “my story”, those unflattering aspects of my life, not to strangers but to people I see week after week was hard.

And then I asked to be added to this blog group. I’m exposing myself.

Why? Because I realized one of my biggest problems in writing was this tendency not to share. I write inspirational romances. The struggle with faith is as important to the story as the romance. And the struggle in my current WIP is something I’ve experienced. It wasn’t pretty. I can either use all the emotions, even the ones I’m not so proud of, and make my heroine’s story “real” or I can withhold myself and let the writing stay flat. This isn’t easy. Nothing worth while is.

I don’t think it matters which genre you write. I think all of us expose ourselves one way or another in our stories. What about you? How do you expose yourself in your writing?


Christine said...

Hi Nanette, what a great post! I love that you are a minister and thanks for sharing that news.

For me, the greatest thing I expose is my inner vulnerability when I write. I am still working on that aspect of the emotions. It's tough cause I am tough, strong, brassy--on the outside. Oddly, I am sort of the opposite of you because I am a talker. But what people don't know is that I use talking to deflect away from me and onto them... lots of questions are asked and I poke fun at myself and foibles. It's easier for me that way. Kind of like my cloak.

My heroines are tough, but afraid of rejection and abandonment if their genuine core is exposed, their flaws if you will. I believe I am the same. Hard to write something if you don't let it out yourself.

You've given me MUCH to think about.

And BTW, part of my faith journey was testifying to an Emmaus Group. I had to keep my lips glued for the first night. I cracked first! That was an amazing experience.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Good post, Nanette. I struggle with putting emotion on the page, too. Even if the character isn't like me, I'm exposing something of myself in the telling.

I was telling someone recently that I went back through my junior high diary and found that everything was a chronicle of events with no hint of the emotion the events caused.

"Boy-that-I've-loved-for-five-years has a new girlfriend, I got a B in Algebra, and my dog died. Then I watched TV..." BORING!

Good luck! ;-)

Jeanie said...

To me, being vulnerable and putting myself out there on paper is the single hardest thing to do in writing and something I struggle with. I don't like sad movies or angst and I tend to cover up things with humor. It's my shield and defense against the vulnerablity and the risk of being hurt. But, like you said, if you can't make youself vulnerable, you can't write a compelling story. A friend of mine has helped me enormously, reeling in my tendency to stay too light and pointing out areas where more emotion is needed. I'm sure I will continue to struggle with this problem as long as I write!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Nannette!
Awesome post! I did learn something new about you!! I didn't know you were an ordained minister! That's wonderful!! I can relate to opening up and leaving yourself naked for the world. It's a terrifying thing to be vulnerable. Writing, in one way or another, is about exposing yourself. Either through our characters or putting our work out there for someone to read, comment and often criticize. It takes courage to write...that and a lotta wine!! Hee-hee-hee!!

As a Virgin Blogger, you did an aweseome job! Wouldn't even have known if you hadn't said so. Can't wait to read more from you!!

Cari Hislop said...

To Gwen: My boring highschool journal entries are void of emotion as well though it got better after I realised none of my siblings were going to bore themselves by trying to read it.
Every now and then I read through it and laugh at myself.

I've learned a lot about me from reading my stories. It's not always flattering, but that's been good too. My list of faults has grown longer, but at least I'm more aware of them. We do have to be willing to expose ourselves. I think if we hold parts back we end up in danger of losing important pieces of the stories we're trying to write.

Callie James said...

Great blog, Nanette! I can totally see that about you--being a minister. How neat!

I don't have any difficulty putting emotion down on paper. I'm less emotional in reality and I think my husband sometimes wonders if I'm even a girl (no comments from the peanut gallery, please).

M.V.Freeman said...

I like your post Nannette...
How I expose myself is writing things I am not comfortable with--and then letting someone read it.

Otherwise, I am extremely private. I still hate public speaking.

Louisa Cornell said...

Great blog, Nanette. Writing romance fiction IS an act of exposing oneself. Anyone who writes and then allows someone else to read it is taking a big risk, a big step and it is a singular act of courage. I think the most important thing to remember is that we are all creatures of emotion and each of us has the ability to deal with some emotions better than others. And some of us have had to grow into our emotions. You never know what emotional experiences, growth or habits you write might touch or teach someone else. Writing is one of the few endeavors in which you can share your humanity with so many other people and you and the people with whom you share can derive something wonderful and life-changing from it. Never, ever underestimate the power of the written word to brighten someone's day, give someone courage, teach someone to pick their head up and believe in themselves or teach them to believe in love when they thought all hope was lost. Romance novels of all genres do that for people every day.

I learned early in my singing career that if I wanted to relate to the audience and not cheat them of anything I had to pour my emotions into every note. And when I did that I was rewarded not just by the audience's response, but by the performances of my fellow singers.

On another blog we talked about people's reaction to Gerard Butler's performance in the film version of Phantom of the Opera. Many purists refused to see it and some panned it because they felt someone like Michael Crawford, the original Broadway Phantom, should have done the role. They spoke of Butler's "raw" singing. Of course they asked me, the resident opera singer what I thought.

I was enthralled by his performance both as an actor and by the singing. The Phantom is a tortured man in agony - an angel of music consigned to hell. He aches for what he cannot have. I heard ALL of that in Butler's singing. That is what I wanted to hear. I've heard Crawford sing the role live and while the voice is glorious he might have been better served to let the emotions come through in his singing.

That is how I think we need to write. Put it out there. Let the reader FEEL what your characters are feeling. Surround them with it. They'll come back to your stories again and again.

Carla Swafford said...

Yes, writing exposing us but too often "readers" believe we're think and feel like our heroines. I can promise you, I couldn't do many of the things they do.

Great blog.

Christine said...

Ok... I loved the screen version of PHANTOM... he did do a beautiful job... sigh.