Want help sharing your story and growing your audience? Sign up for my weekly newsletter for my best tips and advice.

Vulnerability, Narratives, and Enthusiasm – How Do These Terms Drive Your Creative Life?

Every year, I choose a single word that I will focus on exploring. This word is works as a theme throughout both my personal and business lives, something I feel is foundational to our experience creating.

In 2013, the term I chose was “NARRATIVES.” This is a word that seemed to come up again and again, and I became intrigued with it. Specifically:

HOW DO NARRATIVES WE CRAFT SHAPE OUR EXPERIENCE OF THE WORLD.

I wrote about the term recently in this post: Hoping to Grow Your Audience? Focus on Narratives. And whenever I look around at something that works, be it a book that finds a reader or a consumer product that really takes off, I consider how narratives factored in. (I also consider narratives whenever I see someone yelling at an employee at Starbucks…)

Right now, I am selecting a term explore more in 2014. These two have risen to the top of that list:

  • Vulnerability
  • Enthusiasm

Let’s explore each…

VULNERABILITY
In the past couple of years, Brené Brown has done an amazing job of explaining the term vulnerability to us. I haven’t done too much to explore her work yet, beyond seeing her speak once in person, and seeing another video or two online. But beyond what I have heard from her, it is a term that seems to come up again and again in my life, and the lives of writers and creative professionals that I know.

When you create something, whether it is art or a business, that means you are constantly putting yourself out there – trying out new ideas, and setting expectations with others that you HOPE you can meet. It is inherently of making yourself vulnerable simply because the process of creating something sets expectations in others, and makes small (sometimes unspoken) promises that you must now meet.

This year was a wonderful year for me, but also an intense one. I kept trying to do more, to serve more, and at each step, whenever I felt close to “an edge,” I realized it was because I felt vulnerable. EG: in the act of creating, I now had something to lose if it didn’t work; that I could make a poor decision, and in doing so, let someone down. And not all of these things are big decisions either. Many are small everyday things that one does to try to ensure they are ADDING to people’s lives, not taking away.

Something we each know, but rarely talk about, is that it only takes a SINGLE person or a SINGLE interaction to overshadow your entire life with a profound sense of vulnerability. For a writer, maybe it is the one overly harsh book review that you obsess about, and taps into your deepest fears as a writer. You begin ignoring the hundred other lovely reviews, losing sleep over the one negative review that tapped into areas that you feel vulnerable.

So in 2014, I am considering the term “vulnerability” in two ways: to better understand my own work, and to better understand how I can serve writers and creative professionals. That being vulnerable is inherent in this process, and becoming comfortable with it is a skill we can likely all be better at. Key to this is to be more empathetic as to how others feel vulnerable, and using that to better serve their needs.

If you are a writer or a creative professional, my gut is that a sense of vulnerability drives a lot of your experience or decisions in creating and sharing your work.

ENTHUSIASM
This is a term that I have been thinking a lot about after becoming obsessed with the work of John and Hank Green. I remember growing up, the term “nerd” was something you wanted to avoid being defined as. It meant that you were interested in things that weren’t popular, and therefore: worthy of mockery.

A lot has changed in the past 20 years or so, and now the term “nerd” is pretty much a badge of honor, meaning that you are very enthusiastic about something particular. Traditional nerdy past-times are now cool (computer programming, role playing games, alternative types of music), and there are so many more niches and subniches that have become popular, where saying “I’m a sneaker nerd” or “I’m an audio nerd” or “I’m a vintage toy nerd” is an identity people seek out.

For my work and how I connect with writers and creative professionals, it is about how we connect ourselves to the joy of why we do things. There has been so much talk of “community marketing,” and “influencers” in the past few years in the idea of connecting your work to an audience, I want to explore the idea of simply connecting based on shared enthusiasm.

Another way I have been viewing the term “enthusiasm” is as the antithesis of what I have become bored of: snarky, jaded comments that are meant to be ironic and pithy. Too often, someone tries to sound smart by putting down others or putting down an idea. I remember learning this years ago in the corporate environment: it is easy to sound “smart” in a conference room by being critical of an idea. I saw that play out again and again: someone who listened at length to another person’s idea, then dashed it with a simple and cutting statement.

The problem with many of those scenarios is that the snarky comments meant to point out negative things in an idea or project rarely did the thing the world needed most: a helping hand to help BUILD something, not merely a flash of glory in tearing it down in a particularly clever or funny way.

Enthusiasm is about that desire to connect, to be a part of something, and to build.

I’m curious: how do the terms “vulnerability” or “enthusiasm” touch your life?
Thanks.
-Dan

  • I love building things too. This essay really goes to the heart of my own childhood, where I lived in a small place that encouraged my enthusiasm and protected my vulnerabilities. Out of that place I now see I was being prepared to become a builder. Like these great girls:http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/11/19/goldieblox_commercial_rewrites_the_beastie_boys_urges_young_girls_to_pursue.html

  • Susan Chritton

    Dan – I too pick a word or two as focus words for the year. I love your choice of 2014 words. I am known for my enthusiasm and just to warn you, that can scare people.

    • Susan – thanks! Ha, love that. I think enthusiasm requires so much risk, which is why many shy away from it.
      -Dan

  • Kelly Simmons

    Those are both important words — especially because enthusiasm, even feigned enthusiasm, can help bolster you when you are feeling vulnerable. And in case anyone freaking cares — haha I have a word guiding me now too — and that word is “Intimacy” — it’s intimacy that reveals characters — and intimacy that makes third person come alive and feel like first person.

    • I like that Kelly! Thanks so much for sharing this, that gives me a lot to think about.
      -Dan