iván BRAVE

Writer

Vulnerability

5 June 2018
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Beautiful fan-fiction by Meibara34: Risking injury for a higher purpose + letting ourselves be healed + tending to another = being a hero.

¶ Prompt from Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.

 

Today’s exercise follows last week’s Honesty exercise. Cameron calls Vulnerability “honesty’s shy younger sister… the part of ourselves that renders us capable of great art, art that enters and explores the heart.” I remember sharing a draft of my first novel to a once-girlfriend of mine. She was wonderful, having read the whole thing during her Thanksgiving break, but she got it back to me with one big note in red: “You aren’t vulnerable enough.” I remember taking offense, because, I thought, what the hell was the value of being vulnerable? Plus, hadn’t I been extremely open anyway? I had put my soul and fire onto 300 pages, sweat blood and tears, but here a loyal and intimate reader was telling me it wasn’t enough — that I had written only to make myself look good — but I did feel good about myself, so shouldn’t I write that down, if it’s honest? For the longest time, I felt the advice “be vulnerable” meant “be self-deprecating,” “make yourself look bad, even if that isn’t your honest feeling.” For the longest time, I shunned the damn word, thinking, “I am not going to lie about myself, just to please readers who expect me to convince them to pity me.” You can see my error: I had equated self-deprecation with vulnerability. However, just to be clear, my ex was right, I was choked in this double bind of not knowing the value of vulnerability, and of believing I had been vulnerable enough: at a time when both my writing and I would have benefited from a little more self-awareness. To be even clearer, though more confusing, I almost still don’t understand vulnerability. It is a mystery. How am I not being open! How can some readers feel and others not feel I am being completely sincere! Cameron calls invulnerable writing “postured,” “heartless, and, in the end, artless.” All tags I have been labeled with. It hurts to be called postured, artless, fake, condescending, pretentious: when deep down, in my heart of hearts, I do not consider myself these things. It hurts to hear them, then. Readers asking me to “open up even more” just sounded like they wanted me to hurt even more — this is the reason I detested “vulnerability” — why I had to shield myself… even my writing…

 

How open is too open? Cameron says that when we write with vulnerability we get “in touch” with ourselves, we get “in touch” with a higher power, and, ultimately, we “touch” readers. To touch, and be touched, you must be vulnerable, you must be willing to expose yourself, acknowledging the inward contradictions of life, and writing while focused on writing, nothing else on the mind: writing with tunnel vision the dichotomies of life. Inherently messy, inherently open to criticism, but inherently worth it.

 

The exercise this week: to spend 45 minutes writing about your Ideal Life, a day in your Ideal Life — then, 15 minutes making a list of twenty-five “things you love and appreciate about your life as it is currently constituted.” I must admit that this exercise completely freaks me out. And more so that I am going to post it here, on the internets, for the publics, for you. A part of me is afraid that if I share my Ideal Life, then somehow it will shrivel and die: like “jinxing” it, or opening myself up to toxic comments I don’t know how to deal with yet. But maybe that’s the risk. Letting your inner dream out is letting it breathe, Julia Cameron would claim, the opposite of killing it, choking it. When you put your inner dreams on the page, you are staking your claim, you are patching turf on which to stand, you are telling the world you deserve better, and that you can back up your thoughts with action: writing.

 

So that said, here is it, a day in my Ideal Life:

 

I wake up just before dawn, in a comfortable bed next to the woman I love. I shuffle to my office, where my journals and papers are kept. I write for thirty minutes. I go to make a small yogurt and bagel breakfast. I go back to writing, but on a project. Middle morning, light coming in, I smell French toast in the kitchen. I make my way there. Eat. Make love on the floor. Talk about the day, about yesterday, about tomorrow. A kiss on the cheek, and I go back to the project in the office. Noon, do calisthenics, go on a run, shower, a quick sandwich lunch, nap, yerba mate: ready for round two. Back to the office to either work on the project, administrative tasks, submit writing to publications, check emails. Ideally, I receive two wins this day: the publisher of my dreams sends me an email that begins “Dear Iván” and a magazine sends me one that begins “Congratulations.” Late afternoon I go to her room, or I call her, share the news. She has already bought tickets to an art opening, and suggests celebrating the wins somewhere after. I ask her to make it a surprise. By evening we are out in the city. We run into friends. We walk from the museum to the restaurant. We talk like its the first time. An idea for a new project comes to me, I write it down. After enjoying ourselves in the city, we go home. We make love on the ceiling. I make sure my alarm is set to before dawn. I think to myself, what a wonderful world, and prepare to die, or hope to do it all over again. Details? It all depends, I could be anywhere, have been anywhere, so long as I am happy, and I am making the people around me happy. Ideally, I move about in a sphere of positivity. Ideally, I help create the world around me, and enjoy taking part in it, and benefit from being taken by it. Ideally, I would have a house in Houston, an apartment in New York, and a ranch in Marfa, Texas. Ideally, I am with someone who loves me, lol, but I want to be terribly in love with them too. I do, honestly, want to be in a relationship that hurts so good. I want to be touched and explode in fireworks. I want to be able to surprise her with a hug and feel her melt. We have to see each other every day. Travel can be fun too. But ideally, where my heart is now, I am in Manhattan, high enough to feel on top of the world — but I love my little dinky apartment in Greenpoint: today feels ideal. This right here, this writing, is ideal to me, tea to my side, candle light, lavender incense burning behind me: ideally, I would have a whole drawer full of candles and exotic black teas and herbal tasty teas and packs of incense. Ideally, I can live on airplane mode during the day, but have a landline I share only with loved ones. Ideally, on my ideal day, a friend will surprise me with a facetime call, or show up with a six-pack of beers. If my ideal day must involve writers block, then I absolutely must be the one that shows up at a friends door step with a sixer or calls, because ideally I would need the walk and the fresh air and good conversation. In an ideal world, I know I can always count on my father, and can always call my mother. They will not always be around, but for now, I feel they are, and ideally I will always feel they are with me someway somehow. Ideally, I will always feel like I can count on someone, and ideally, I will always feel like someone can count on me. Ideally, people can count on me producing work, on showing up when called upon, on listening. Hobbies, ideally, include taking care of my sail boat — dancing tango — exploring the city — each once a week. Ideally? Yes kids, seven kids, or four, or one would be nice. No kids, then ideally, a dog, absolutely must be a big strong d-o-g kind of dog. Ideally, I live with a Weimaraner, since it was a puppy, and I have spent every day with it, training it, loving it, and exploring parks with it. Yes, a dog would be ideal, but even cats, like two would be beautiful: one independent one and one cuddly one. Ideally, I teach twice a week, but because I want to, not for money. Ideally, I teach a language class once a week, and I teach writing once a week. What if I taught English in the morning on Saturday, and then writing that afternoon? That would leave my writing career Mon-Friday mornings. Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday new material. Thursday editing or new material. Friday, this, professional development, writing exercises, experiments, and such. Ideally, I would own my AM hours and give them only to what puts a smile on my face: like writing, like spending time with the woman of my dreams, like keeping up with my body and with my temple. Once a month, absolutely, a must, planting trees, or some kind of outward contribution, charity, but definitely conservation, or education… Ideally, I am a member of every museum in the city. I would be a donor to all the arts I care about, which are all of them: ballet member, opera member, library member, transit museum member. Ideally, I have invested so much time and effort to the things I love that the benefits come like free, as dividend. I don’t want money, I want membership. I don’t want free-time, I want walks. I don’t want luxury, I want purpose. Ideally, I meet my need for consistency, my need for variety, my need for love and significance, and growth and contribution: the T. Robbins six needs met. I want to finish all the Julia Cameron writings, and then some. In my dream life, I live to complete my dream goal: to write a book on each planet in the solar system: that is, my ultimate dream. My first novel is Earth. My novella-thesis is Mercury. My short story collection is the Moon. My next project will be Mars. Writing these books will, ideally, be the few drops of water I contribute to our vast ocean of literature — my purpose in life.

 

Turning my attention to the life I have right now, these are the twenty-five things that I appreciate about my life as it is now:

 

1. I expect myself to achieve the above; that is, I have stolid determination, a set of powerful habits I have cultivated, and a belief in myself that did not come easy, but now that I believe, I will believe. I can make it. This, this I value about myself above all else.

2. My apartment in Greenpoint, the effort put into keeping it clean, keeping it creative, keeping it, and its location, and its fourth-floor walk-up-ness, right under the roof which I enjoy, which I enjoy enjoying with others.

3. I appreciate the time I have to write, and the time I’ve put in to write. I cannot express how vital this is to me, how I cherish my time, because it is what allows me to make the things I believe can benefit other people.

4. I appreciate the love of my family: uncles, aunts, cousins, of course my immediate family; this point is only an extension of the appreciation I have for who they are, period.

5. My high metabolism, my energy, my hunger for life! By extension, I appreciate the people who share this zest.

6. I appreciate the interesting and beautiful people I meet not as often as I would like, but who leave an impact on me from the first moment we met. I suppose I appreciate the time and attention they give me, because I only want to share that with them too. Here’s to friends, and more-than-friends!

7. I appreciate my growing library and my mini-shrine. These are extensions of me, and they reflect my beliefs and my passions. Whenever I read a book, I find out something about myself, and this exploration into literature is one of the most rewarding journeys.

8. The New School, my graduate university. I appreciate the personalities I interacted with, the workshops I took, the seminars I learned from, the professors who imparted their wisdom, the deadlines to write, the chance to be critiqued and share my thoughts, the atmosphere of liberalism and learning, the strikes, the chance to be a TA for a mind-boggling class, and to be an RA for a Parsons prof, and so much more. The last two years have been indispensable to my identity and to my writing. I am in indebted to the New School. (Literally, I owe them money.)

9. My roommates. Ideal roommates.

10. I am in the right city. I appreciate New York City. I have always wanted to live here, ever since the trip here with my father in 2009. I am happy to have made this dream come true seven years later.

11. I appreciate my job: where would I be if I couldn’t TA? TAing gives me a sense of purpose, as in I get to help others, and also it puts food on the table. By extension, I appreciated the chance to work at the New York Language Center last year, and I am fingers-crossed hoping they will take me back later this year when I will need to find my purpose again, to teach, to put food on the table!

12. I appreciate strangers, our mutual openness. How rare it is, and how wonderful it is. I suppose what I want to say is I appreciate this standard of camaraderie. What am I saying? I am saying I appreciate seeing someone who smiles at me on the train, the chance to spark conversation in the grocery line, or the chance to be friendly. I appreciate openness, yes. This isn’t always the case, but what I want to put down is I appreciate this feeling with a stranger when it does happen.

13. I appreciate having met each woman in my life who has been with me and made me a better person. I appreciate also that they left me, or that they let me leave them, because today I have never felt so ready to be with someone the rest of my life.

14. Special shout out to my brother, Axel. I appreciate you. You might not read all my blah-blah or stories, but you ask for them, and you always answer my calls and you have interesting things to say, and are the coolest person I know, and you are chasing your dreams, which makes me feel good about chasing mine. Onward, hermano!

15. Just kidding, Anouk, dear youngest sister, you are the coolest person I know. And I appreciate our conversation and our relationship.

16. Oh Alana, hi there, you are a one of a kind kind of diamond. Hard as a diamond, shiny as a diamond. You are the diamond of my sibling life.

17. Mama. Before anything else, you are why I love the things I love. Thank you.

18. Papa. Above all else, you are why I am who I am. Thank you.

19. My health. I cannot take health for granted. I appreciate it, while it’s here. I can run. I can breathe deeply. I can speak my mind. I can share myself (without getting anyone else sick…) and this I appreciate.

20. I appreciate my professor and mentor Sigrid Nunez, who has sparked that thing inside of me that tells me “I can write this thing that I am about to write.”

21. I love and appreciate the peace of living in a war-free country. How lucky. How, in the parlance of our times, much privilege! I have always felt safe here. I only want to share that feeling with others: when they are with me, hugging me, when I enter other’s homes, when they enter mine… I only want to share this peace I feel deeply. Like Lennon said, I want to sing for peace, pee for peace. And I expect to do it, too.

22. I appreciate being able to share this silly list here. It feels odd, yet exhilarating. And I know I am not going to share this post beyond publishing it. I don’t want to be mean, or bossy, or pretentious, or haughty, or full of myself. But I want to claim myself. I expect to put myself out there. And so here it is. Wah!

23. I appreciate my thesis troupe, two men. One for being there as undying support, the other for being uncompromising in his critique. Together they have been the sword and shield of my development this semester. Love to them. Thank you.

24. I appreciate and love the response from my ideal publisher last week over email, just an email reply to my third one to them, saying they’re “keeping an eye out for my book.” God… talk about JINXING IT — but I have been courting this badass one of a kind nonprofit whose mission is my mission… and they are reading my novel, the stupid invulnerable one that is actually a cry for help and a mission statement of its own… I appreciate just the consideration, because I trust they will pick the book that they feel is ideal… so if mine wins I can rest assured it was the best book, but if another wins I can chill assured knowing they picked their ideal while I get to go back to the lab and make it an even better stronger more vulnerable and honest book that expresses my deepest sentiments and shares my deepest thoughts and “touches” others the way it has touched me to write it.

25. What’s up? I appreciate, and love, YOU. Thank you for reading 🙂 Goodbye.

 

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