Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Writing as an Act of Vulnerability

Short post today because my thoughts on this topic are still evolving.

Let's be honest with each other: writing and publishing something is an act of vulnerability. You're putting yourself out there and, in a manner of speaking, showing your soft underbelly. I think about this every time I find a typo in a post I've already published, and then chastise myself for not editing more closely. I think about this every time someone takes issue with a point I've made and I try to figure out if I could have been clearer. And I think about it every time a post or tweet or whatever resonates strongly with people and I get retweeted/shared a lot. Yes, vulnerability can be scary, but it can also be a very good thing. I know for sure that we need to be more vulnerable.

Sharing the less than pretty thoughts and emotions and outcomes is hard. There is still so much stigma around mental illness and anger and failure that we are all at least a little afraid we'll be judged. But the truth is we all experience these things.

  • I don't know many librarians - or people, for that matter - who aren't suffering with some kind of anxiety or depression or other mental illness. Heck, in a talk I gave last year about how to get up to speed when you're a new library administrator, in a section where I was discussing self care, I said, "find yourself a good therapist." The audience was predominately people who were new library administrators, and more than half of the people in the room nodded their heads in agreement. 
  • Everyone gets angry sometimes (well, maybe not the Dalai Lama, but he's a special case). The thing about anger is that the only people who are allowed to express it without being judged are cishet WASP men, and even they are judged if they get angry too often. A friend of mine recently marveled at the fact that I, as a library administrator, was expressing anger about something that happened at work. I don't remember exactly how my friend said it, but it was along the lines of, "most library administrators are so zen." My response was something like, "no library administrators are zen, we've just gotten good at playing our cards close to our chest."
  • And everyone fails sometimes. We share our triumphs, which is good, but sharing our failures is actually more important - especially for those of us who are more established in our fields and in our lives. I've messed up my budget before. When I was a new administrator, I corrected someone publicly. I've even been fired before. Sometimes failure can be made pretty and palatable, as in "we tried this and it didn't work so we're going to try that instead." Sometimes it can't. It is critical to try to learn from mistakes, but sometimes you just fuck up and have to move on.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I'm going to try to be more vulnerable in my writing here in the future. I encourage you to do the same in your writing. I've got 15+ years in this field and 46+ years on this planet, and if y'all can learn from my mistakes and avoid those pitfalls, it would be great. Not that you aren't going to make any of your own mistakes - but when you do, please know I'd be happy to publish your musings on it so I can help you become comfortable with being vulnerable as well.

Happy New Year, y'all.


  1. Wow, beautiful word of encouragement.Personally I appreciate this. As a young librarian, I am learning so much from you. Thank you.

  2. This is my first time reading your blog, and this post is just what I needed today (and I'm a not-very-young librarian). Thank you so much!