[Community Corner] 💌 Vulnerability as Creative Fuel 🔋

By Kylie Grinwald

✨ Introduction

The truth, at least for me, is that my best creative work almost exclusively stems from times of intense and sometimes uncomfortable vulnerability

Discover some uncomfortable dissonance between yourself and your surroundings? That’s prime poetry material. 

Realize something profound and shocking about your upbringing? There’s an abstract watercolor waiting to be made, like this one:

Vulnerability has always been the story behind my creative pursuits, but now I’m comfortable telling you about it more than I ever was before.

So much so, that I woke up one morning during an Ithaca snowstorm and decided that I wanted to share my personal process of vulnerability and creativity with an email list of hundreds of Cornellians.

Just for fun, I also decided to intersperse a few verses of a recent poem I wrote, as a case-in-point. Throughout this article, you’ll find snippets of poetry that detail the complicated and difficult relationship that I have with my hometown - a relationship that makes me feel particularly vulnerable. 

I’m hoping this blog post can be a new way to think about finding content and inspiration for creative pieces, but also a method of approaching the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability that is bound to hit everyone at one point or another. 

Here goes: 

👀 Step 1: Acknowledge

In the same way that “denial” is the first stage of grief that must be overcome, I think the first stage of transforming vulnerability into creativity is personally Acknowledging that you’re feeling some type of way and that something is making you feel vulnerable.

Personally, I try to avoid rushing to convert emotions into creative pieces because I know that I need time to Acknowledge them first. Often, I enter into a process of reflection or journaling just for myself - without any intention of producing something for an audience. 

I reason with myself that whatever thing is making me feel vulnerable is going to influence me and my work whether I like it or not. I might as well Acknowledge it, so that I can understand what that influence is and how it’s making that impact.

Here’s an example of how the Acknowledge step showed up in one of my recent poems: 

Home is somewhere far away

from where I know. 

In this line from the beginning of my poem, I Acknowledge that I don’t have the intimate or proximate relationship with my home and hometown that I want to. After this line, I’m ready to start moving the poem forward. 

✌️ Step 2: Make Peace

This is rough. It’s difficult. It feels almost insulting to write “Make Peace” as a step in a process because of how deeply significant and intimate Making Peace with oneself is.

Nonetheless, it’s where I go next on my journey. I tend to take a strategy of tough love with myself at this point. Sometimes, I leave sticky notes with accurate but hard-to-hear messages for myself in unavoidable places like my desktop or bathroom mirror, to remind myself of something that I’m seeking to Make Peace with.

That’s what works for me. But I encourage you to explore different strategies for Making Peace until you find what truly helps you connect with yourself and grow. 

Here’s how I reflected this step in my recent poem: 

You are the one with complex ties

to the place that you were born, 

which is a place that no one leaves

but no one has ever gone. 

Here, I again Acknowledge that I have “complex ties” to my hometown.

But I also Make Peace by reflecting on what my hometown is. I’m from a very small town, a place that doesn’t attract many people from the outside and where people who are born there tend to stay for their whole lives.

In the last two lines, I am gentle with myself and implicitly ask: Is my hometown really a place that I want to center myself, knowing what I know about it?

🤗 Step 3: Share 

By this point, I am feeling much more comfortable with the thing that initially made me feel vulnerable. I Acknowledged that vulnerability exists and journeyed toward Making Peace with that vulnerability on a personal level.

If I feel comfortable doing so, why not Share it? 

This step is, of course, completely optional and up to your discretion as a creator. 

It’s OK to not Share something if you aren’t sure you feel comfortable doing so! It’s OK to think about Sharing something, sleep on it, and then make a decision in the morning. 

If you decide to Share creative projects that are personal or vulnerable in nature, I’ve found that it’s a very solid way to build an audience. In my experience, people enjoy interacting with honest content that tells realistic and imperfect stories.

Ultimately, content that is personal to you is a unique value proposition to your audience that no other creator can offer. If you are comfortable Sharing, this type of content can be something unique for you to leverage in differentiating yourself from other creators. 

Graphic by Renee, CC Designer

🦄 Happily Ever After… jk.

Obviously, it is challenging to share something that makes you feel vulnerable. Even to come to terms with something on a personal level, let alone sharing it with the world through the creative process, is difficult. It makes you feel… well, vulnerable.

If you complete this cycle of transforming vulnerability into creative fuel for one topic,  there is also usually a queue of other topics waiting to be addressed next. 

For me, unpacking one vulnerability can set off a domino effect that leads me to explore and understand other challenges or vulnerabilities that I never saw coming at the start.

The good news? This process will wait for you until whenever you’re ready for it, and it will be there to reuse again and again. 

✨ p.s. - If you’re looking for tips from a real expert on vulnerability, check out this article that draws from the research of Brené Brown.

Kylie Grinwald

Kylie is a junior ILRie whose interests lie at an eclectic intersection of poetry, UX design, project management, and human resources consulting. Don’t ask her how that happened - she doesn’t know! 

Did this blog post supercharge your creativity? ⚡ 

We hope so. And we can’t wait to see what magic you make next. ✨

Take this email as the reason you’ve been searching for to dive into your next creative endeavor, and know that you’ve got a creative community backing you at every step of the way. 🙌

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | ✉️: cornellcreativescc@gmail.com