In the Disney movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Alice is wandering along in the weird woods and she happens upon a caterpillar sitting on top of a mushroom and smoking a hooka. When he realizes that she is staring at him he asks her, “Who are you?” She answers him with a bit of a studder, “I-I-I hardly know, sir.”
Then they begin a conversation about who she is and what her problem really is. Alice is very confused about who she is in fact, she is so confused that she can’t even explain why she doesn’t know. As writers, we often feel like Alice. We are writing because it’s in our soul, straight down to the marrow in our bones. We have to or else we’d go crazy. Sometimes we write to find out who we are but when we finally get on the path to knowing who we are, do we remember or do we stray?
In writing as in life, it is so important to know who you are. Some say that is the whole purpose of life: to discover yourself. When you don’t know who you are, you feel confused like Alice. You’re wandering around looking at other writers wondering how they do it. You think that if you copy their style, you can be like them. Maybe. Most likely not. You might begin a new writing project with enthusiasm and write furiously until you get to a point. That point is when you look up and think: what the hell am I writing? I don’t know where to go next. Should I even continue with this?
When you know who you are, you sit in silence before doing anything or not doing anything. You let it sit and gel. You are comfortable with not knowing for a little bit. After a while, the work will call to you again and you’ll get right back to it. You will keep doing this until you can’t write anymore. And you have learned a little bit more about yourself. You have learned that you can sit in that uncomfortable place of not knowing, and you survived. In fact, you thrived.
How do you get to know yourself better? We each have our on paths to self discovery but here is what has helped me:
1) Sit in silence. Even if you do it for 5 minutes. Just sit and witness the twit in your head. The twit is that voice that prattles on about all things stupid and untrue. “You don’t deserve to get a job you love. You’re an idiot because you always mess up. Stop trying because you know you’re just going to give up anyway.” It is all LIES! Not. True. Just crap. When you hear it, just say, “Shut up. Please.” (because your mom was right, Please really is the magic word.)
2) Do one thing you absolutely ADORE every day. Whether it’s reading, shopping, eating, drawing, walking, volunteering, talking to friends, whatever. Do it every day and you’ll discover not only how wonderful life can be but how wonderful you really are as a human being. I do yoga every day, even if I feel like a beat up dish rag because I know I will feel better doing it. I also love yoga.
3) Do one thing you are PETRIFIED to do. There is something you’ve always wanted to try or do but the twit told you that you shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t. If you want to go skydiving, do it. If you have always dreamed of writing and publishing a book, go and write. Run a marathon, build a home for the homeless, paint a picture…face the fear and do it. I wrote a book and published it. I even showed it to my friends and no one. Not one person, laughed at me, told me it was crap like I thought they would. Now I’m going to write and publish more books because I have to.
Tweet this: You have the resourcefulness to figure it out and make it happen. via @MarieForleo
Alice eventually discovers who she is. You will too but you can go farther along in your journey if you begin to start asking yourself: Who Are You? Now. Then go write about it.
What about you? I’d love to hear how you are working to discover who you are and how it affects your writing. Please share in the comments below.