At one point when we were children, my twin sister called me a robot. She said I was inhuman: considered and rational above all else. I took that as a compliment. I mean, what else could anyone want? Our relationship seemed fine. I tried to listen to her problems. She had a lot of feelings, but—given enough warning and sometimes an explanation—I could intellectually understand them, give feedback and maneuver appropriately. I wasn’t sure what else she wanted.
We’re close now, believe it or not—like I’m close with a number of people, which is pretty good for someone who was pretty tight-fisted with his emotions. Oddly, the people I’m closest with…we’re close not because I intellectually understand them. It’s because I’ve felt what they’re feeling and they know it.
It can be a lot of work to share emotion. Sharing joy is fun, but it’s draining during harder times—which are critical to truly experience any related joy. To paraphrase a video on the subject I watched recently, empathy is often about getting down in the dark and dirt and sharing a horrible spot together. It’s about revealing your weakness and confusion and doubt and embracing it, finding the space where we all connect, tapping universal human experience and thus connection.
That’s why the heroes and heroines I end up loving in books are not the judgmental ones (at least, not by the end of their arcs) but those who are inclusive and those who accept, those who embrace other natures than their own, and end with love and not fear. And that’s why, as a writer, to be your best, you must tap your darkest experiences…so you can also share the brilliant light of happiness that comes at the end of each metaphorical tunnel.
In every aspect of life, those who are strongest are those who allow themselves to be vulnerable. That’s how you promote closeness and community and connection.
People will know if you’re just talking or if you’re really walking the walk.
ON MARCH 23RD at 4 p.m.
West Hollywood, California
WE’RE PROUD TO BE A CONFERENCE SPONSOR
March 24th – 26th