On Vulnerability

I know how things look right now.  If you go on my Facebook page, or catch a glimpse of me on Twitter, or sit in a crowded bookstore audience where I’m giving a reading, or attend one of my weekend retreats, you might make certain assumptions about me and my life.  You might assume, successful author.  You might assume, has it made.  You therefore might make the leap to: she must feel great.  Or even, as in the title of a book and blog I like a lot, I Want To Be Her.

“We love to hate Dani Shapiro,” a radio host recently told me.  “You have a perfect life.”

Let me pose a question.  Do any of us have perfect lives?  Or do we carefully curate our public personas, keeping our true selves safe, hidden from view?  Of course, we show only what we want the world to see.  In my case, if you were to go on my Facebook page, you would see an author who apparently never has a bad hair day, who happily travels from city to city, occasionally posting announcements about readings, or appearances, or good news about her book, her family, her life.  She’ll post a trailer of her husband’s new film, but won’t write about the years of struggle, the sleepless nights, the financial upheaval, of making that film.  She’ll post a photo of herself on Oprah, or giving a big reading, but she won’t post a photo from the day before, where only ten people showed up in a bookstore.  She’ll put a selfie up on Instagram (is there anything less revealing of self than a selfie?) but only from a good angle, in a place she wants to be seen.

But true vulnerability is an art.  It is the art of allowing oneself to be seen.  Without putting up our guard.  Without pretense.  Without all the masks we don in order to get through our days.  Vulnerability also requires vigilance.  Some days it’s easier than others to simply be our true selves.  When I went on Oprah, all I hoped to do — my single task for that hour — was to be myself.  I wanted to shed all of my defenses and engage in the most genuine conversation I possibly could.  The stakes were high –– by which I don’t mean the public stakes.  I mean that my own sense of truth was on the line.  Could I enter an arena with lights that bright and still just be me?

I trained for that hour as if it were a marathon I was running.  Instead of getting media coaching, I meditated.  Instead of trying to get my sound bytes down, I opened my heart.  I learned a great deal from that experience, and something within me shifted.  I hope that shift is permanent — though I know better.  I know that growth is a process, that as we continue to live, we continue to adjust to new circumstances.  But within that shift, I have grown less comfortable, more wary, of the idea that how things look is how things are.  I mean, yes, sure, I’ve written eight books, my husband made a (beautiful) film, oh, and our kid is photogenic and fabulous (sorry, proud mama moment).  All that is true.  Here is what is also true.  I had nightmares last night — real ones.  I am sitting in a dark hotel room at the crack of dawn in the yoga clothes I slept in.  That weird dislocated feeling of being in an unfamiliar city (Seattle) is upon me.  I’m worried about the future.  About my health.  My husband’s health.  My kid and his happiness.  I’m worried that we need to repaint our house this spring, and we’re going to need to re-shingle the roof.  I worry about what’s next.  That whatever I do next won’t be good enough.  I obsess about aging.  I know some people just don’t like me and that makes me feel weird.  And then, underneath all this, the stuff of nightmares.  My sad, dead father.  My angry, dead mother.  The paucity of relatives.  The feeling that often visits me of a profound loneliness.

All of this is true.  All of these selves make up one self.  The successes, the failures, the losses, the joy, the grief.  The triumphs and the fears.  These are what I want to bring with me everywhere I go — not just some of the time, but all of the time.  So that when I get up there and speak my truth, it isn’t a version of the truth, or just what is smooth, easy, and palatable, but rather, that it begins to touch what it means to be human in all of our complexity, in all our fallibility.  That ultimately, it has to be enough to say: this is me.

 

  • Erin Cole Roth

    Thank you for these beautifully articulated thoughts on vulnerability. I particularly like the image of curation as the way we manage our public selves…not just on social media, but in various situations. Curating our “presentation” is an insidious habit, and goes beyond the idea that one is just a private person and therefore doesn’t share “everything” with the world. One can be private and still be vulnerable and real. I certainly haven’t mastered it, but it’s something to work toward.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Erin. Totally agree with what you wrote!

  • Valerie Eaton

    i absolutely love that about you. Nothing bonds us more as humans than exposing our struggles and trumpets. You are so young still, Dani, age is nothing to fear. I can honestly say at 60 I am more comfortable with myself than ever before. I have seen God touch my life this year as never before. You are part of that new me.
    God bless and carry on,
    Valerie

    • Danishapiro

      Lovely to hear this. Truly lovely.

  • Emily (OhBoyMom)

    I think about this a lot lately because our family is going through a tough time right now and yet I struggle with how much to put out there (not just on social media, where I have a presence, but on my blog, in my emails, face-to-face with friends) to show our true vulnerability right now and how much to keep private and put on that brave, positive face instead. I think it can sometimes be a balance, but I also think when you’re more of a public figure, whose life does seem “perfect”, showing your vulnerable, human side is reassuring to so many of us.

    • Danishapiro

      Hi Emily, thanks so much for this. I hope the tough time gets easier soon.

  • lisajey

    I loved this. So well put… and it’s funny – at every level the same is true… I may not have been on Oprah or written 8 books – my successes and triumphs take different forms… as do my real-life nightmares, insecurities and struggles — we are in fact, only human. With that in mind, I also hope you give yourself a bit of a break sometimes. In being human, it’s okay to sometimes *want* things to look easy and polished to the rest of the world, because it’s sometimes just the easier, less stressful choice in the moment… believe it or not! But I love that you meditated before Oprah. Wonderful.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Lisa! And you’re right about giving ourselves a break. Thanks for the reminder.

  • elauer4

    Applaud. Loved this. Needed this. Yes. Thank you.

    • Danishapiro

      You are so welcome. Thanks for the support.

  • Raymond Cothern

    Those of us who follow you, your successes and triumphs via all the means of media, know through the honesty of this blog and through your books that you are exactly like the rest of us when it comes to being human and wondering what’s it all about, Alfie. Like old Fitz said, we are all boats beating against the current of living and doubting and loving and feeling less worthy than. The great thing about you is that you have not only a paddle but a powerful outboard motor when needed. Opening your heart like you just did is a wonderful present for us all this holiday season. Thank you, dear heart.

    • Danishapiro

      Oh, thank you. You are always so lovely and supportive and it means a lot to me.

  • Tara

    Beautiful.

    • Danishapiro

      :)))

  • Katie Devine

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I wrote recently about finding more truth in my own life (http://confessionsofanimperfectlife.com/2013/11/18/of-false-bravery-and-half-truths/) and am comforted to see some of those same vulnerabilities in another. Looking forward to seeing you at the Inspiration event in LA in January! Thank you.

    • Danishapiro

      Katie, I look forward to reading yours. Glad you’ll be coming to the Poets & Writers event in LA in January! Should be a really good one!

  • Sue LeBreton

    It speaks volumes to who you are that your training for Oprah was meditation. It saddens me that writers like you who are successful and who have a public face are often “not liked”, usually I find from jealousy. I suppose that is the flip side to those of us who support you. We are all mrs alike inside than not and being vulnerable is a powerful way to connect with others. Keep on bravely being you.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks for this. Very heart-warming.

  • Dan Shaw

    It pains me that “people love to hate Dani Shapiro.” They have obviously not read your books or they’d understand how much effort, commitment and risk you have put into being yourself and telling your stories. I re-read your books because they give me the courage to try to be myself.

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, dear Dan.

  • Raquel LeBaudour

    I can really appreciate this piece. Nicely done. 😉

    • Danishapiro

      Thank you! Glad it resonated.

  • This is an important post, Dani. The “we love to hate Dani Shapiro” line disheartens me in the same way road rage does. When a person physically bumps into us, we see their facial expression — usually one of instant apology — and the accident is forgotten. When a car cuts us off, we can’t see the wrongdoer’s expression so a ballistic, unwarranted response can fester. To me, this is the same mechanism with “celebrity worshipping” and “celebrity loathing.” It’s an absurdly intensified response to a human you’ve (likely) never met. Social media can provide the illusion of what their life must be like, but fails to convey anything we’d need to observe over time to actually know a person. “Are they truly kind? Are they truly happy? What truly makes them tick?….” A cultural shift must take place, particularly among women. It’s just too brutal for too many who gain fame for doing what they love exceptionally well. As writers, we select our words with such thought and purpose. Some recent observations have reminded me that others are not quite so careful.

    May we each revel in mastering the art of “remaining us” through the unique eras of our lives. I thank you for continuing to show vulnerability and care in everything you write. It shows great generosity and courage — two things to only “love to love.” =)

    • Danishapiro

      Oh, thank you for these words. And for your wish that we each revel in mastering the art of remaining us. Beautiful.

  • katrinakenison

    To paraphrase Brenee Brown: vulnerability is the courage to show up and be seen for who we are, heart open, struggles revealed. I so admire and appreciate your willingness to offer a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of the perfectly orchestrated TV moment, the successful book tour, the so-called “perfect” life. Yes, we do all struggle and crash and flail — but not everyone admits it. Thank you for being you!

    • Danishapiro

      Lovely Katrina, thank you for traveling this road with me. Whenever I see you, or your name pops up, I feel less alone. You are a treasure.

  • Robin Gaphni

    Dani,
    Just keep being yourself, and damn the “Dani haters.” I so wish I could have come into Seattle tonight to see you. Your books, particularly Devotion inspire me in ways untold. I wish you were coming across the ferry to Bainbridge to do a reading. Stay warm and continue to be true to yourself.

    • Danishapiro

      Robin, perhaps one day I will come across the ferry to Bainbridge. It sure looks beautiful, rising up in the distance:) I’m glad that Devotion was inspiring for you. Thanks.

  • Michelle Haseltine

    This post came to me at a moment where I needed to hear these words. Being vulnerable is hard and scary, but oh so necessary for a full life. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I just finished reading Still Writing and I am in love with that book and want to read everything else you’ve written. To me, your voice is authentic above all else and I’m listening!

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Michelle! It’s so good to hear that my words found their mark. I’m delighted that you responded to Still Writing!

  • Beth Kephart

    Dani! Yes.

    • Danishapiro

      xxx

  • Kelly Simmons

    Hi, Danni, we met in Philadelphia (I’m Beth Kephart’s author friend) — she pointed me to this blog post for a very specific reason I won’t bore you with. Anyway, just wanted to tell how much I love that you chose meditation and yoga over media training — there are so many people in the world who need to hear that. Namaste, PR spin machines!

    • Danishapiro

      Hi Kelly, Namaste, PR spin machine indeed! It’s soulless. and besides, it doesn’t work. I’m glad you found this post helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

  • re

    “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” by philo

    from On Being Brene Brown interview reprise. It resonants as a man the difficulty of being vulnerabilitieshonest with my vulnerabilities. My father never spoke to us about who he was and what he felt about his children.

    • Danishapiro

      I know that men find this so hard. Our culture doesn’t exactly support men being honest about their vulnerabilities. But we have to start somewhere and break the cycle…

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  • Jessica Halepis

    Thank you for writing this. If I could hug you right now, I would. 🙂

    • Danishapiro

      Thanks, Jessica:)

  • Dawn Pritcher

    Ever since I was a child I wanted to be a “best-selling author”, but all I’ve ever accomplished are journals full of my life. Then I started reading your new book “Still Writing” and couldn’t believe how much of my life related to you and your book. I have been the soul breadwinner for my family (husband disabled) and struggle to climb the corporate ladder only to find I am still not truly happy. They way I grew up and the struggles of my first abusive marriage and addictions, my husband said you need to write a book. He thinks I put on a fake smile for most of the outside world and that people really need to see what I have been through. I’m not comfortable with the fact of hurting others. It’s okay to hurt me but I feel vulnerable exposing my life. I really just want to say of all the writing books I’ve read over the years your book “Still Writing” makes me forget who I may hurt and makes me want to write those books because that is who I am.

  • Sharon Van Epps

    Thank you, Dani, for being you. Again, I’m so sorry I missed your reading last night.

  • Pamela Hammonds

    I’m reading this on the tail end of a writers’ retreat where we are snowed-in in Texas (Texas, of all places!). Together we have laughed and cried more than the previous four retreats combined. As we collectively grieve tremendous loss, personal struggles and professional pitfalls, we’ve grown closer in our vulnerabilities. This morning I passed my copy of your “Still Writing” along to E, for her to read, and over lunch, I plan to share your words here. Thanks, Ms. Shapiro, for being here with us in spirit. Your post couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

  • Amy Roost

    The tribulations you mention are all pretty much first-world. Relatively speaking, if your biggest problem today is that you didn’t change out of your Lululemons before falling asleep in your hotel suite paid for by your publisher, then you do in fact live a close-to-perfect life, at least as measured by a material-world yard stick. As an upper-middle class white American, so do I, despite my own tribulations. And I really struggle all the abundance I enjoy when so many people in the world suffer. Even in my own city (San Diego) 25% of children are food insecure. This morning, I threw half of the food in my refrigerator away–it spoiled because I ate out so much last week (poor me, right?).

    While my life is far from perfect by my own standards, does the fact that I have a high level of material-, spiritual-, psycho-, social-well-being, and my Facebook page is not a mask but a fairly close representation of how I live and view life–does that make me invulnerable? And if so, in order to be vulnerable do I then have to search for things that I’m ashamed of or wish were better about my life–a better roof, softer mattress, bigger retirement account, thinner thighs–to make me seem more vulnerable?

    I guess what I’m saying is that to me vulnerable is sleeping beneath an underpass when it’s cold outside. Vulnerable is not knowing where your next meal will come from or being raised by alcoholic and/or abusive parents. Admitting your life isn’t perfect and you have worries about your house getting painted, is more just being honest than vulnerable. The vulnerability we all speak so often of these days is the ability to open yourself up to judgement. What a luxury! Why not simply call it honesty? Why has honesty become vulnerability? Maybe it is because of societal pressures to gloss over the bad (Answering “I”m fine” when you’re not) or put a good spin on things.

    To me, it’s sad that vulnerability has become equated with honesty. Because vulnerability is so much more dire than that.

    • Michelle S

      Love that you draw a distinction between honesty and vulnerability here Amy – thank you.

    • Marilyn

      Amy, vulnerability is defined: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. I think Ms. Shapiro has met the criteria, at least in a way and very obviously, of the latter here. As it relates to me, growing up I always felt that making my feelings known, the truth of what really affects me, made me vulnerable to what people might think of me. It would require expressing one’s feelings honestly, one might suppose, but not really. Just expressing an opinion makes one vulnerable to being disliked or attacked by others. I respect everyone’s parameters, they are not all the same.

    • Ray

      Some good points here–thanks. To me what’s sad is that, while it’s natural for all of us in our dealings with the world to emphasize the good, writers have become far too adept at playing the slickeroo game. That they “curate” one self and blog about the other doesn’t help much. Or maybe it does: I tend to be put off by author glamour shots. The best writers, in my experience, still don’t go in for them.

  • Licia Berry

    Dani,

    Thank you for your honesty and sharing. I’m so with you on this as a new author myself…and watching as I struggle with how others view me. A friend of mine said “We are a figment of each other’s expectations.”

    “She has an amazing life and therefore we need to pull her back down” is something I’ve encountered and I am always amazed at how hurt and surprised I am by other’s behavior, but particularly other women. What mechanism is it that causes women to do this to other women? Why, when they see women rise to a new level of success and VOICE in the world do they need to peck at them like angry, jealous birds, instead of seeing the remarkable feat and possibility being demonstrated….a woman’s ability to be authentic, powerful?

    I was reading a couple of great articles about this very thing yesterday (ok to share here? feel free to delete if not, I have no vested interest in either but thought you’d appreciate being on a similar page to other extraordinary women leaders) http://blog.ted.com/2012/03/16/being-vulnerable-about-vulnerability-qa-with-brene-brown/
    and http://kellyraeroberts.blogspot.com/2013/11/some-thoughts-about-all-mean.html
    It is on my mind as I posted my art on Facebook the other day with my copyright info and was lambasted by a woman who called me “low vibe” and “coming from lack and limitation”. It reminded me of how women who have not yet claimed their right to assert themselves will hover and uneasily hem and haw when a woman dares to leave the flock of the invisible. And then the pecking begins.

    I applaud you for standing up as who you are, for continuing to ask the questions of your inner self, for your commitment to honesty. Blessings!

  • Kelly

    I love this post, especially the part about hoping that the feeling will not leave us- as it does. I have found that the ebb and flow of the “comfortable vulnerability” often gets lost in the daily “stuff” This becomes a great teacher as we are so grateful for even a moment of that feeling when we find ourself fully present in the moment, absent of thinking, just being a conduit of love that is needed at the moment. We were made for these moments 🙂 Continue shining your light!

  • BipolarMom (Jenn)

    Just started reading your blog, Dani, and I must say, I am captivated by your raw honesty and the beautiful angle at which you view life. Just went online and ordered Devotion and cannot wait to read more of your words.

  • Melissa

    thank you.

  • Starla J. King

    Dani, I keep thinking about the word “essence” in response to this beautiful post.
    Thinking of how the essence of each of your books and the essence of you in your public life (Oprah, readings, workshops, signings, in the coffee line at Kripalu at 6:59am) seems to stay pretty steady. Something like a compassion for all that life encompasses — even as you speak your not-easily-digestible truths — plus a genuine desire to offer that possibility to the rest of us.

    Vulnerability is a lot about letting that truest *essence* of ourselves color everything we do and are, isn’t it?

    I’m struck too by your phrase “true vulnerability is an art.” It’s not just about spilling our entire selves all over everything and everyone with nary a thought to the art of self-expression.

    I’ll be chewing on this one for a while… thank you, Dani!

  • Amy Roost

    I don’t begrudge Ms. Shapiro her perfections or her imperfections. I’m not familiar with her writing. Perhaps if I were I’d have a better context by which to make sense of this essay. I just see the relative vulnerability she refers to–the willingness to be transparent and hence be judged–as something of a luxury as compared to abject vulnerability. I think when we give openness and honesty the label “vulnerability” it diminishes real vulnerability and makes it seem like people who are honest run the risk of being victims. I cannot be responsible for another person’s reaction to my truth. I’m only vulnerable if I personalize their reaction–and that’s my bad, not theirs. Also, if Ms. Shapiro feels emotionally attacked for having been accused of having a “perfect life”, and feels the need to defend herself or expose the dirt beneath the glitter, then why is she doing so in a column with hyperlinks to all her (and her husband’s) successes? I’m sorry to say so because it appears Ms. Shapiro reads her comments and I don’t mean to make light of her work or her honesty, but this essay reads like her publicist wrote it in order to promote, not vulnerability, but Ms. Shapiro’s brand.

    • Sharon Van Epps

      Why are you devoting so much time to critiquing the blog post of a writer you haven’t even read? If you were familiar with Dani’s memoir DEVOTION, or even STILL WRITING, you’d know that the idea of Dani worrying about her “brand,” or ever having a publicist write something for her, is ludicrous.

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  • Reading this piece made me sit up several times and mutter “wtf” in my best soto voce manner so I don’t wake up the sleeping doberman lying serenely on my bed without a care…well….not a first-world care ….. in her little ball-obsessed heart.

    First shock: “true vulnerability is an art.” Er….wha??? No, it’s not. It’s not an art at all. One either is or isn’t. If one is “falsely” vulnerable (is there such a thing?) one wouldn’t be feeling vulnerable at all. While I think all of us have on more than one occasion been falsely modest, our vulnerabilities are always real. I believe you’ve always been – and always will be – emotionally vulnerable. Whether you choose to make that apparent is a matter of trust. If, however, it’s not trust, than it’s competitive. (think about that for a moment. When it just happens, the sharing reflects both trust and yearning. When it’s a device, it’s competitive. We’re nothing if not complex)

    Writers, as usual, confound such neat notions because, as it may happen, sometimes it’s both. A memoirist must earn the reader’s trust by opening up so that the content has meaning, truth, and credibility, but the decision to do so is both competitive (there will be comparisons, after all), and artful (in the sense of trying to create art).

    Which brings me to the second shock: Ms. Amy Roost’s comments on your essay. I must be an utter naif. I believe If one is going to comment on an author’s blog, one would at least have a passing knowledge of the author’s work, but Ms. Roost has decided to discard such niceties. She’s entitled to her say here in the blogosphere and wild, wild Internet, but it’s a touch bizarre.

    Her criticism is that you often (well….maybe entirely) concentrate on matters both 1st world and second (I mention that because we are, still, the second world, but perhaps Ms. Roost thinks we’re in Europe). She questions your right to claim vulnerability, comparing it to contexts of squalid danger within third world countries. (Really, why not East St. Louis or Detroit?).

    Hers is a judgment of vulnerability as a third party, and she’s mostly referring to proximal physical injury, but there is a such a thing as emotional vulnerability (unless one believes there’s no such thing as emotional injury), and to limit discussion to third world problems is to nicely throw Jane Austen on the ash -heap. As it happens, people in first and second world countries are actually forced to live where they live, and spend time caring about their negligent 1st and second world problems: children, spouses, lovers, wants, needs, careers, finances, despair, depression, anxiety, lust, rage, contempt, and whether their reproductive apparatus is up to snuff mechanically and cosmetically.

    As it happens, stuff like that is the concern of 99.9% of the world’s writers because that’s what most of us uncaring 1st and 2nd worlders care about. Would she have Nabakov spend his time writing about South African hovels? Is Dani Shapiro less emotionally vulnerable because she’s experienced some success? (well…yes. One hopes that success does make one feel more secure and confident, but then there’s that stuff about aging and lost looks, and fear of being discarded, and lust for things one is not supposed to lust for etc.).

    I personally loathe and detest every single being who’s better looking than me. I’m just sayin’………….(I’m not so keen on the wealthier ones, either)

    Lastly, about the “brand” thing: Learn about brands, Ms. Roost. All the successful ones have a copy platform that embraces a set of values intended to speak directly to a particular population segment. It’s not so easy to maintain brand discipline and coherence. I’ve no idea if that’s what Dani’s doing, but she does have an obligation to ensure the blog reflects the persona that people are responding to in her books. That’s “OBLIGATION” writ large. Would you prefer she sound like Mike Tyson?

    • Ray

      “Learn about brands,” “maintain brand discipline and coherence.” Wow. Oh, that Tolstoy chap is so lucky to be dead! And EMS seems to be fresh from a focus group for a Nancy Meyers movie.

      • It would be helpful if you actually understood the reference. Ms. Roost’s criticism is that Dani Shapiro’s piece appeared to be brand management rather than sincere….which begs the issue of what sincerity means, and what a brand is.

        I believe Roost’s criticism is specious. She’s rendering judgement without even being familiar with the work. I read Shapiro’s piece as being intact, coherent, and consonant with the rest of Shapiro’s work. Her blog is her public face to her work. As such, it ought to reflect the same values. I believe it does. That’s also good brand management. You’re conflating brand and brand management as entities (and definitions) with your own value judgement of marketing. They’re not one and the same.

        It’s not marketing which is the villain, but people’s behavior. Presumably you expect the institutions you respect and believe in to manifest those values explicitly and in a disciplined fashion.That’s brand management, regardless of how you might describe it.

        Note your comment neither defends Roost’s point nor actually responds to mine. I’d be happy to discuss, but if this is just an off-the-cuff troll, have at it. I’ll watch from afar.

        • Ray

          In my initial post, I never claimed to be defending Roost’s points. I noted merely that I found some of them good, then said that what I myself found sad was something slightly different. In other words, I changed the subject, raised a new point. As for your point, I cannot begin to say how offensive all talk of “brand management” is to someone who cherishes literature. I only wish Henry James were around to comment on this sort of diction, and the values behind it. In his absence, we have Cynthia Ozick. Not such a come-down.

          • Ray, but you responded to my post, and then I to your comment re: my post. Your original post has nothing to do with it, no?

            As for “offensive,” you must have a very thin skin, not to mention difficulty staying on point. We’re discussing essays on Ms. Shapiro’s blog, not her life’s work. I was clear in stating I haven;t a clue what Dani’s trying to do, but if she were managing this blog as a brand, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, and has absolutely nothing to do with literature as such. It has to do with maiking her blog attractive to readers, prospective readers, and the commenters who habituate the joint.

            Why is it analogies make you so uncomfortable? If this blog reflects a consistency in values and craft with Ms. Shapiro’s work, then that reflects good brand management, whether or not she intended that. Writers often choose narrow areas as their particular field. Staying within that field rewards readers who are looking for more of what attracted them in the first place. That, too, is good brand management and is entirely separate from a discussion of art, content and craft. What is it about that which upsets you so much?

            FWIW, I grew up in publishing and have been in and around the field professionally for over 60 years. If I adopted your point of view, I wouldn’t have managed to publish a damn thing because I would have been broke within a year.

            Your points don’t reflect a love of literature, but rather a judgement of what you think literature should be. Fine. When you’ve published something, written something, struggled with writers who need to survive and make a living, one gets more flexible or one retires to the dustbin of disregarded authors and publishers. You’ve abrogated the role of missionary critic, but ideology makes for poor analysis.

            Publishing as it was once known, is dying on the vine right in front of your eyes. You can either decry this development, or find ways to create and distribute new art, new publishing constructs while making rational judgments as to how to get that work out there where it might actually do one some good.

            If you want to add to this discussion, why not put forth your own ideas of what a writer’s blog should do? Why do one in the first place? Why are you here? (meant as a real question, not snark) How did this community get started? What does it reflect? Would it have happened if Dani were less careful about what she inserts here? Why expend all the extraordinary effort she clearly does? What is she trying to accomplish? What’s the best way to do that?

            Answers, please. Inquiring minds want to know.

          • Ray

            Sorry–no. Too much good reading to do. Thank you for helping me to remember that. This was my first foray into lit blog tit-for-tat, and it will be my last. We are arguing from vastly different premises, a hopeless affair Publishing as it was once known may be dying, but literature lives. And I do love it.

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  • An excellent piece, Dani. I read it twice and it really spoke to me. Then I got sucked down the rabbit hole of the comments thread. Yikes.

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  • Teresa Burns Gunther

    Thank you, Dani. This literary life is challenging. Creating opportunities requires creating our writing life as a stage, or “Platform”, to prove we are worthy of the notice of agents, publishers, editors, readers, a stage that makes it possible for us to do what we most love. I hate this aspect of the writing life and have had to force myself to hone social media skills. I find it all a distraction, a necessary evil, a waste of my precious writing time. It’s a game I play very reluctantly.
    Your preparation for your Oprah interview is a great reminder that we do our best when we are most truly ourselves. The place of a writer is an inside-outside sort of duet: private, true self — public self. The challenge is to keep the public self close to home, where we live in our true, original self.

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  • Lara McGill

    We all put on public personas, whether we’re high-profile people or not. (Billy Joel said it best in “The Stranger.”) Anyone who is willing to stand up to the light of public scrutiny and bare themselves, emotionally or intellectually, is brave and is to be commended. They don’t call it “taking the hard road” for no reason. It’s easier to hide than to be real. Our entire culture encourages falsity. Your bravery is inspirational Dani!

  • Valerie

    Dani,
    I entered your world today and it does make me feel very vulnerable. In one sense like coming out of the closet. I am a writer. There I’ve said it! It’s not a life style I would choose. Is it a real job? Like most people I spent years denying it. Tried other things, like 34 years of nursing.
    i am done with the days of telling people I am just writing down a few thoughts. Done with hiding my real self. Hiding at midnight with my computer to get in those last thoughts. So what was the huge revelation?
    I was fortunate to reunited with a high school friend of mine over the holidays. First time to see her since my first wedding (1971), she served cake. Julia had kept all the letters and stories I had written over the late 60’s. Idiotic imagination of a 15 year old. Over the years I have tried to half hardly write. Nothing to committed. Short stories about the Keys. Never finished a single one.
    But when I asked Julia “why the hell did you keep all this.” her answer turned me around.
    “Because you are a writer.”
    Thank you Dani for inspiring me with your words of encouragement. I’ve written more than I eve have since I read your books. I can tell the emotions come from your heart. When I grow up I want to be just like you. Course you know I’m like sixty. So I’m a late bloomer?
    Take care, Dani and other writers.
    Valerie

  • seasick

    You are a remarkable, amazing woman. Wish there were more truth and vulnerability here.

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  • Thank you for your truth
    voices uniting in truth bring a sense of belonging
    I am thankful