Five Tips for Writers to Manage Vulnerability

A couple of weeks ago I began requesting blurbs for The Only Way Through Is Out, my memoir about coming out later in life—which meant emailing authors I didn't know at all or I knew only a little to ask if they would spend THEIR precious time reading MY book and then endorsing it.

I heard back right away from one author who said yes (thank goodness!).

The other three, including one who is kind of a big wig in queer literary circles: radio silence.

Maybe they were just busy.

Maybe they missed the email in their overcrowded inboxes.

Maybe they thought, "Who the hell is this person who has the nerve to ask me to read her book and endorse it?"

Okay, I only thought that about the kind of big wig person—the other two authors actually know who I am.

All week long, the task of following up hung over my head. Plus, I was supposed to send out even more blurb requests.

The absolute last thing I wanted to do.

As I avoided these acts of vulnerability, my mind went to some ugly places.

  • I'll be the only author in the world who has only one blurb for her book.
  • No one is going to buy my book.
  • Why did I even think I could do this?

I guess I temporarily forgot the mantras I share with all my queer writers:

Representation matters.

Your story matters.

Finally, on Friday, I sucked it up.

I bravely reached out to the three authors I hadn't heard from, and I sent another blurb request to an author I was more connected to and more optimistic about getting a yes from.

Minutes after I sent out that new blurb request, the author responded. "I would LOVE to blurb your book!" And she could even meet the first blurb deadline.

"I LOVE YOU! " I emailed back. "Seriously, thanks! This is sooooo vulnerable asking for blurbs."

"OMG tell me about it!" she responded. "You'll get through it, I promise."

An hour after I sent the follow-up emails, one of the authors responded (not the kind of big-wig one) that she was so glad I had followed up, so happy for me, and she told me when she'd be available to read my manuscript (not right away, but later this spring, and was that okay?).

I have yet to hear from the other two, but the one who is not the kind of big wig has been on vacation, I later discovered.

Here are 5 things I've learned about managing vulnerability in my writing life:

1. Don't beat yourself up for feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability is part of being a writer. You can't escape it—but you can prevent it from stopping you in your tracks. See #2-5.

2. Eat the frog first. Send the query letter. Share your pages with your book coach or your critique partner. Reach out to your author acquaintances and ask for that blurb. The dread only gets worse the longer you wait to do the vulnerable thing. Trust me.

3. Don't always expect the worst. People are busy. They miss emails. And sometimes they will say no or ghost you for reasons that have very little to do with you or your worth as a writer or a person. Think of the times when you were in their shoes. Have you ever meant to respond to an email and then forgot about it?

4. Be a generous literary citizen yourself. Respond to the emails and messages from other writers—even if you have to say no to a request. Remember how vulnerable it felt to ask for help when you were starting out. Be like my author friend and say "I would LOVE to blurb your book" if you are able to. Commiserate with other writers about the vulnerable asks—it makes them feel less alone. It makes them feel like they can do it too.

5. Reconnect with your why—your purpose for doing this work in the first place—when the vulnerability feels like too much, when the doubt demons whisper in your ear that you don't have what it takes to be a writer.

You do have what it takes.

Your story matters!

Write it—vulnerability hangovers be damned.


Just fill out the details below and you'll be good to go. Please note, your information is safe with me, and welcome!