Weekend Edition – Just Be Yourself. Yeah, Right. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

The not-so-easy art of being yourself

pin who you wereBeing yourself is hard. Maybe you’re more evolved than I am, but I’m pretty sure that when it comes to who I am, I’m still figuring it out. I know I’m supposed to be a grown-up, but I still feel like an awkward kid half the time. I still have so many questions and doubts. I still feel like an unfinished story.

People say “just be yourself” as if it’s a simple matter. They mean well. They intend their words as reassurance or encouragement, but whenever I hear that bit of advice, it’s as if someone opened a trap door beneath my feet.  As I hurtle down into who-knows-what, my head echoes with the question, “But … who am I?”

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When I was in high school, I was what you might call a “floater.” I did not belong to any of the usual cliques. I wasn’t a jock or a brainiac, a drama geek or a teacher’s pet. I wasn’t a cheerleader or a goth chick, a troublemaker or a goody-goody. While part of me is grateful that I was able to avoid the noose of any particular label, another part of me recognizes the possibility that I just wasn’t willing to commit too heavily to being any one version of myself.

Even now, almost three decades later, I still feel a sense of fracture in my identity. This isn’t unusual. Most of us live multiple lives that are defined by the many different roles we play – child, parent, spouse, friend, lover, worker, boss, artist. The situation becomes exponentially more complex as we layer on other aspects of the self – nationality and ethnicity, political and religious leanings, financial and social standing, etc.

And then there’s the fact that we are always changing. New experiences and perspectives change how we perceive and feel about the world and ourselves. We learn and adapt and evolve. We try new things. We change our minds. We change our style. We change our lives. We change who we are.

I just listened to a passage in Buddhism for Busy People that explained how our bodies are constantly regenerating so that every seven years or so, we are – in essence – an entirely new person. Perhaps that idea is what inspired the concept of the “seven year itch.” It certainly inspired one inmate to petition the courts for release after serving only seven years of a much longer sentence on the grounds that he was, literally, no longer the person he was when he was incarcerated.

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I have always thought of myself as a kind of chameleon, subtly changing myself to match my environment. I admit, with some amount of self-reproach, that I am generally a people pleaser. It’s not that I present myself falsely. It’s more that I present myself in pieces, only showing the parts that are relevant and acceptable while keeping other bits to myself. While this approach to dealing with people is an excellent one for minimizing conflict, it’s not necessarily a great personality trait for a writer.

As writers, we depend on the courage of our convictions. Our beliefs and the identity they create are not only fuel for our work, they are also the source of our writer’s “voice.” As E.B. White said, “Writing is both mask and unveiling.” Even if we craft fictional stories, they still – if they are good stories – contain elements of truth, and those truths spring from our identity – from who we are.

This is why learning to “be yourself” is so important to a writer, to any artist. Knowing who you (really) are is the mandatory first step to developing your writer’s voice.

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Because we work so hard to develop our characters and are also trying to hone our writer’s voice, we writers usually have more angst than the average bear about personal and artistic identity. For many of us, writing is more than a profession or even a vocation. It is part of who we are and a large part of how we interface with the world. Having our work rejected cuts us as deeply as it does because, on some level, the work is an extension of who we are.

This connection between self and art creates a challenge in a marketplace that expects consistency and continuity. The public does not always want artists to “be themselves.” In fact, the public is often outraged if a writer who is known for one thing tries to be something else. Take the case of J.K. Rowling, for instance. Loved around the world for her Harry Potter series, she was initially widely ridiculed for her work under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. But, whether the books she’s written under that moniker are good or bad interests me less than the fact that she felt the need to publish any non-Potter writing under a pen name.

Why isn’t Rowling allowed to be a whole person, instead of *just* the author of the Harry Potter series?

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I think that many writers hold back for fear of being pigeon-holed. We sense the threat of permanence that hovers menacingly at the edges of success. Once we have become known for any one piece of work, we realize we will be expected to deliver more of the same. It comes back to that question of commitment – are you willing to commit wholly to any one kind of story, or even – as in Rowling’s case – one particular story?

The rub, of course, is that in saying “yes” to one thing – one self, one voice – you risk saying “no” to something else.

Most artists, writers included, are – once they have achieved some level of success – almost forced to work within constraints defined by their “public.” Though paparazzi and fans might fawn all over a celebrity, they do not really love her as a person. They love the idea of her and what she represents. If she steps outside the boundaries of their expectations, the fans can turn on her and feel justified in doing so because, to them, she has violated a trust … just by being herself.

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My personal concerns about how I define myself and develop my writer’s voice exist on a much smaller scale than those of a global celebrity, but they still exist. The conflicts in my world are not dramatic, but they still pose a challenge in terms of how I see myself and how I present myself and my work to the world. For instance, I make my living as a content marketer for business-to-business companies, but I am also an essayist here on the blog, a columnist for my local paper, and an aspiring fiction writer. Just the simple act of choosing which articles to post on Twitter (business & marketing vs. writing and art) can start my head spinning.

Sure, I could split my identity into its component parts and create separate personas to address each audience, but I don’t like the idea of perpetuating this division of self. Even when I am “being” a content marketer, I am still a lover of fantasy fiction. And when I am “being” a columnist or a blogger, I might be thoughtful one day and funny the next, gently exploring a topic in one piece and taking an adamant stand against some injustice in another. There are many facets to who I am as a person, and also to who I am as a writer. Though I understand that some facets will shine brighter than others in certain situations, I do not want to have to shroud the others.

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People often talk about “sacrificing for your art.” Usually, they are referring to an artist who gives up wealth, ease, peer acceptance, or a relationship. But, there is also a less recognized risk of inadvertently carving away pieces of yourself so that you can, ironically, live up to other people’s expectations about who you are – as an artist/writer and also as a human being.

Hanging on to your true identity is hard. First you have to discover who you are, and then you have to learn to inhabit that identity fully, wholly, and without inhibitions. Starting with first things first, look for clues about who you are by noticing what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, and what makes you furious.  Pay attention to who and what you make time for in your life – these are the people and things that matter to you most. Notice what spurs you to action, what compels you to get involved.

Be careful of labels. Try to rid your mind of all preconceived notions. Don’t get fooled into thinking that if you are one thing, you can’t be another. Go ahead and create your own crazy combinations. This is the art of being you. The rules were made to be broken. Know that the person you are today is different from the person were ten years ago, five years ago, yesterday. Don’t let that worry you. Change and growth are natural. Nothing stays the same for long, and you are no exception to that rule.

Maybe that’s the trick to “being yourself” with ease – simply letting go of any expectations and acknowledging that this question of identity is one that can never be definitively answered because the question is a moving target with an ever-changing set of variables. “Being yourself” becomes, then, not a destination, but a journey – an adventure with an unknown ending. I guess we are each of us, after all, an unfinished story. And that’s just as it should be.

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What I’m {Learning About} Writing:

risk graffitiAlthough I have been a busy, little B2B content marketer lately, and my personal writing time down to a nub (I seriously need to take some of my own advice about how to make time for writing) I still have my bi-weekly column deadline to keep my creative writing muscles flexing. This past week, I published a fun piece about the evils of clutter. Like many of my columns, I tried to fuse a little storytelling with a little humor and a dash of introspection. I was pretty happy with it, until I read my fellow columnist’s piece.

My fellow columnist is more of a traditional, op-ed style columnist. He’s also a bold humorist. The piece he wrote this week was a brazen condemnation of a local developer and the planning board that allows his irresponsible building projects. It was funny. It was entertaining. And it also very effectively addressed a real problem. It reminded me of the work that Jon Stewart did on The Daily Show (an compliment I don’t toss around lightly … I adore Steward).

While my column was “nice,” it lacked the “punch” of the piece on the ill-reputed developer, and the contrast between the two got me thinking about whether and how I should take more risks in my writing. Risks require commitment. They demand that we are audacious – speaking our minds, being unapologetically ourselves.

I do not yet know how this line of thinking will develop, but I’m interested to find out.

Have you ever taken a risk in your writing? What made you do it? How did it turn out?

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What I’m Reading:

bk one only ivanLife has been a little extra hectic lately, and when life gets too crazy I tend to seek out a good children’s book for comfort. After finishing Alice Hoffman’s magical and romantic The Nightbird last week, I turned to Katherine Applegate’s story of friendship, art, and hope – The One and Only Ivan. As it turned out, this was one of those “children’s” books that holds a great deal for readers of any age.

Here’s the description from Applegate’s website:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

The story is told in the first person from Ivan’s point of view. The chapters are short and the style of Ivan’s delivery is very straightforward. As he explains early on, gorillas are all about brevity when it comes to how they use words.

On the surface, the story is about the plight of the animals at a roadside attraction, but just below that narrative there are deeper veins of meaning. Applegate deftly addresses the horrors of poaching (a topic that has been in the news a lot lately after the tragic murder of Cecil the lion), the mysteries of the creative process, the idea of freedom, the value of family, the weight of a promise, and so much more. Through the experience of her ape protagonist, she makes many astute observations about human nature.

This is a book that manages to expose some of life’s deepest tragedies and some of humanity’s ugliest tendencies, but still gives you a tangible sense of hope and joy. As a writer, it inspired me because of Applegate’s artistry, and also because of the messages in the story about the importance of art in our lives.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this book, and I highly recommend it for an afternoon’s read.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from the past couple of weeks:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

… because we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously …

pin be a unicorn

Here’s to knowing who you are and holding onto that even while you enjoy the journey to the next iteration of yourself. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Risk Graffiti Photo Credit: greenhem via Compfight cc

81 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Just Be Yourself. Yeah, Right. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Though I have all sorts of doubts and I have serious issue in the self-confidence department I never lost track of who I am. A lot of things happened in my life, most of them bad but I managed to keep my core and identity intact. In school (of life) I was an outcast. Still is. Good that I don’t care what people think of me. They cannot and will never define who I am. Same with my writings. I follow my feelings and see where it takes me.

  2. Hi Jamie. You write beautifully. Thanks for the advice. I find with MY writing, that some things work and others don’t. Often I don’t know why. But I’m learning. The reader is fickle. They want instant gratification. So if a post doesn’t grab them in the first 8 seconds (Apparently this is the number), then they’ll skip on by. Being a writer is sometimes a tough gig, but my love of expressing myself through words, keeps me focused. Thanks for this post, it has provided me some valuable insight. Warmly, Nicole

    • Thank you, Nicole – for the kind words and for being here. 🙂

      8 seconds. I know. It’s painful, right? We have such a small handful of moments to capture a reader’s attention. It’s a major challenge. There are few instances when we can ease into a story any more. We have to start with a bang – something to grab the reader’s attention immediately. It leaves us in constant jeopardy of falling into a sensationalist habit.

      I tend to lean toward slowly developing a consistent readership who understand and appreciate my particular style of writing. Though my marketer side harps on my to write more list posts and use all the other tricks and tactics for generating clicks, my writer side knows that the readers who are lured by such an approach are not necessarily the ones who will stick with me for the long haul. SO, tempting though it is, I try to – as you put it – stay focused on expressing myself through words.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  3. love everything you have written here–I too am a columnist and you speak to me (I also wear other writing hats–and each is different in its own way). I sometimes get complacent and when I read someone else they sometimes inspire me–You have inspired me–I may never be a unicorn but you have encouraged me to accept all my selves.

    • Ah, yes – complacency. I definitely suffer from that sometimes – less due to laziness or boredom than because of a lack of time to do things properly. Wearing all those different hats can get a bit chaotic and we get caught up in the nose-to-grindstone, just-crank-it-out mode. Not good for anyone – writer or reader.

      And then – like you said – I read something that inspires me, something that stops me in my tracks and reminds me, by example, what kind of writing I really want to be doing. And so, I try harder to do it right. I try to be a unicorn. 😉

      Thanks for being here & I’m so pleased my words inspired you in some way. That’s awesome.

  4. Add my husband always says, If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. Commit to being the best you that you can be always working to improve yourself to measure up to God’s standard , the standard of love. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul,and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself. You may never reach the standard but you will be always growing and improving and you’ll always have a foundation that is secure.

    • I agree that it’s important to always be growing – always trying new things, pushing your boundaries so that you can improve and advance in your journey as a writer. There is no point in standing still. Focus on the love and the “why” behind your writing and do the best you can.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  5. Very good article, congratulations! Time well spent! I wish you have a good Sunday! Ah, and if you wish, take a visit at my blog, I like to play with words sometimes. Just remember, it is more about the content, not the form… ah the usage of propositions ! By the way, I also “(…) believe in small kindnesses”.

  6. Reblogged this on Daily (w)rite and commented:
    As a writer, I do leave parts of myself in front of the public in general– sometimes concealed or disguised in fiction, at others on this blog or on the Facebook page– anyone who trawls through this 7-year old blog would know me, to an extent.

    It is hard to stay myself, yet be private when the blog is so public.

    It is hard to be a writer, and not rant on any of my social platforms on one of the bad writing days.

    The following post by Jamie Lee Wallace examines the challenges of being authentically ourselves. It is long, but well worth the read.

    She raises important questions: How is it possible to be yourself all the time, when your selves, your roles in life are disparate or fragmented? What if you’re a businessperson but also an artist? A doctor, but also a dancer?

    What about you– how do you express yourself? How do you stay yourself in the face of people’s expectations from you?

  7. A wonderful post that encapsulates the search for identity that we all, consciously or unconsciously, attempt to complete. I love how you seek something to hang your hat on and yet recognize the ongoing evolution that comes with new experiences and understanding. We are fluid, so much of who we are based on perceptions, ours and others. We are stories that we are still writing.

    I think that despite the different roles we fill and personas we display, there is a way to feel centered in core values. For me those are kindness, compassion, empathy, gratitude, openness, a willingness to learn. Do I live these values all the time – no way – so forgiveness of my human foibles comes into play.

    You are well on your way to authenticity. Take a breath…I have the feeling you already know who you are. ❤

    • I love the idea that we are “fluid.”
      In a book I just finished reading (Buddhism for Busy People), the author talks about the many misconceptions we have about the concept of personal identity. To try and explain, he says that we are not the wave, but simply water … both less than and more than we assume. It’s a little confusing (I need to read it again), but I think there are some similarities between what he says and your line of thinking.

      I agree with you that despite all the ways we change, there are some core values that remain constant. I love your particular list & embrace each of those values as my own … imperfectly, but earnestly.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement. It’s all much appreciated. 🙂

      • I’ll have to think about that line too – we are not the wave, but simply water. The wave might be our reactions to the world’s action, our outward ripples. Yet the water is still the water, essentially unchanged despite the movement. Thanks so much for this discussion – much fun 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I’ve really come to love this blog btw and anyone who is reading this post, I suggest following it even if you aren’t a writer. The writers have fascinating views on life, writing, reading, excerpts and other things and I think anyone can really gain something from them.

    I was actually contemplating this myself, over the past ten years but more specifically the current one and the current day. I find I work particularly well with deadlines (rush of adrenaline sort of thing) but other than that who I am and how I work and what I want to do is mind boggling for me. I suppose that is the reason I named the site what I did because I can’t truly define myself because every day I feel different. This leads to a bit of confusion both in life but also writing.

    See in writing, as Jamie mentions, it is assumed that once you write within one genre or one type of character that you will continue to write as such. I personally have many ideas (which drive my husband insane because I can float from one to the other in minutes) and they are far apart from each other for the most part. Combine the random thought process and undefinable character that I personally am, it has caused a bit of difficulty when relating or creating a written anything.

    The picture in the beginning of the post is fantastic “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” I’ve been told to be many things and the only things I have every really agreed with is I’m organized (chaotically) and I talk a lot. Beyond that, I have never agreed with anything anyone has ever suggested to me either because I didn’t want to do it or I didn’t like them and I had to rebel. But I’m getting off the topic and I need to shut up now!

    Great Post!!!!!!

    • Thanks so much, Christina, for sharing and for adding your own perspective.

      It’s so interesting the way others can influence how we perceive ourselves. Sometimes this is overt, as in the way you’ve described – people telling you what you are; and sometimes this is more a cultural phenomenon – society having general expectations that are conveyed through social mores and the media. Either way, it’s important for us to try and maintain a connection with the small, unadulterated voice inside us, so that we can remember who we really are.

      Thanks again, and please feel free to ramble here any time!

  9. I do think to a great extent, we are fashioned by our goals, and because they are confined to a set of codes and restrictions, we make up this thing called ‘hobbies’, or change our profession frequently throughout our lives to help define or varify ourselves to others. And I really don’t believe a person consummed by one profession can experience life fully, even if it does result in recognition. We are, put simply, what we value. If we develop strong convictions, those things should be immutable as we age, I’d expect.

    • “We are, put simply, what we value.”
      Yes. I think that there are certain “themes” that run through our lives – “immutable” threads of meaning and purpose that are consistent no matter how many times we change professions or hobbies. Learning to recognize those threads is the trick. Once we know what they are, we can proactively build on them and create both a stronger sense of self and a greater capacity for communicating clearly with our readers.

      Thanks for sharing. Great stuff!

  10. If a place isn’t comfortable like having unpeaceful sound still sometimes have to manage. I like to write at the night before sleeping. Yet I write in parts the whole day. And it has been turned out that eventually I got an idea while staring at something. While I couldn’t do so in a room packed with four walls.

      • I believe it, and we all need reassurance at times. If you are like me, you never feel alone while reading. Reading is like walking with a kindred spirit. We ride in their mind for a time, perceiving the world as they do, and in the process, catch a glimpse at the fundamental truths that connect us all. It’s a wonderful thing.

        On getting to know yourself: “as within, so without.” Newton’s Third Law states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I believe this tells us that nature seeks balance in all things. I believe it also tells us that we must not focus solely on what we find within ourself; we must experience the world and listen to what it has to say as well. The truths we encounter in the world (without) may be translated into the self (within). And this remains true for the opposite.

        We live life by each moment. To know the self may simply be a trust that upon encountering these moments, we will act according to our nature.

        But, what is our nature? And so the story continues. . . .

        If I may leave you with a recommendation, check out Meditations by Marcus Aurelius if ever the opportunity presents itself. I could give you every reason why, but I trust that it will find you when it will.

      • I could not agree more about reading being like “walking with a kindred spirit,” though I would add that sometimes it is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of one very different from ourselves, and so broaden our perspective and deepen our understanding of “other” even while we contemplate our own identity.

        I am intrigued by the idea of “as within, so without.” I will think more on that, and also put Meditations on my To Read list.

        Thanks so much for sharing your insights.

  11. Great read. Loved the children’s book share. Re: finding and accepting yourself: if you wait long enough for ever more clarity (say, into your sixth decade) you’ll find that despite knowing just who you are, you still know very little of much about your identity. You tend to meld more with the rest of the human race while still finding mysteries about your own self. And it is better this way!

    • Ooh … love this idea of how we “meld more with the rest of the human race while still finding mysteries about [ourselves].” 🙂

      I just finished reading Buddhism for Busy People, a book that talks a great deal about the concepts of personal identity. Interestingly, there is much to be said for how we are, in fact, all part of “something bigger” … the “rest of the human race,” as you put it, and even beyond. Writers have a unique opportunity to embrace and explore the duality of personal identity in the context of a broader, “human” identity. Each time we write something, we write from our own experience and perspective, but we are – at the same time – trying to connect with others by finding that common ground between us. It’s an interesting balance between self-expression and interpersonal connection.

      Lots to think about here. Thanks so much for opening this particular Pandora’s Box!

    • Thank you. I don’t often feel “wise,” but I’ll take it! 😉
      And I don’t think you could pay me a better compliment than to share that you felt I was writing about you. That’s perfect.

    • Thank you, Lisa.
      I hope that things are going well on your blog. Have you encountered any challenges around how to establish your “writer identity” and/or balance that identity with your personal one?

  12. You have tapped all the points on how we play different roles and how we are confined to a certain genre after creating a name. Have we stopped being ourselves by letting our followers or fans decide for us. A tale of stifling creativity. Quite tough to give a definite answer because we keep growing, priority and life philosophy keep altering.

    • The relationship between writer and reader is an interesting one. It has always been a two-way street, but in this Internet age, it is more dynamic than ever before. Writers are more exposed to the feedback from followers and fans – this is a double-edged sword. While it’s great to have a conversation that leads to insights about your audience, it can be dangerous if you let your vision be influenced too greatly by that external input. It can be tough to keep your footing on this slippery slope.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it. 🙂

  13. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Just Be Yourself. Yeah, Right. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Joshua Obarombi's Blog

  14. Hullo Jamie, lovely post today. Firstly, I love the idea of the prisoner applying for early release after 7 years because he was literally no longer the same person. That cracked me up 🙂
    I also really identified with your description of how you were a floater at school. I don’t think it shows a lack of commitment to yourself, I think it shows the courage to be yourself, in all its complexity. It’s a shortcut to be just a sporty person, or just a musician, or just a science or technology nerd. I couldn’t be pigeon holed and I have always liked that. I also understand about being different things to different people, picking and choosing as it were, to suit the situation. I used to do that too, as a way of protecting my inner self. For me, personal blogging was my way of presenting my true self to the world in a safe way, and it’s become less scary over time to be who I really am. As for being a work in progress, my friend, we are all that 🙂

    • Hullo to you, too, Sara. 🙂
      Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in what sometimes feels like a wonky, half-baked way of relating to the world. I love your description of building a life around a label (sporty person, musician, nerd, etc.) as a “shortcut.” That’s perfect. Makes so much sense. When we’ve identified ourselves as one, finite thing, we don’t have to keep asking questions. We can just follow the “rules” of being that person.

      I have also found that blogging (even writing in general) has been a gentle way for me to reveal pieces of myself that might have otherwise remained under wraps. I am much braver about “being me” when I can do so in writing. But, I do still self-edit. Baby steps, right? No need to go all gung-ho all at once.

      Thanks for chiming in. Always so nice to “see” you!

      • Yes, exactly! When we identify with a group, we don’t have to make decisions. Our group decides what we wear, the music we listen to, our political beliefs and more. I never wanted that for myself thank you :). Baby steps indeed, me too xo

      • I never wanted that either. It may be a more arduous road, having to untangle decisions at each fork in the road, but I would rather take the time on the journey than to realize at journey’s end I had arrived at the wrong destination.
        😉

  15. Thanks. I relate in so many ways. It’s encouraging to read your perspective. I often write when I’m overwhelmed with emotion, specifically sadness. I love to write about the overwhelming beauty in life too. And the irony and humor too. Thanks for helping me feel at ease with my whole self.

    • We are, when we are whole, a seemingly chaotic combination of all those things. When you really think about it, it’s kind of silly that we should ever expect ourselves to be just one thing. It’s impossible. We are many-layered beings who combine the tragic with the humorous and the sublime with the inspiring. “It’s all good,” as they say. 😉
      Thanks for being here.

    • I absolutely agree. My shelves are stocked with children’s books – both treasured keepsakes from my own childhood, and newly discovered favorites. I have found that these “kids'” stories often contain a depth and wisdom not present in so-called adult fiction. And, as you point out, it’s sometimes easier to find ourselves in these stories … our “real” selves, not the grown up versions. 😉

  16. Interesting. Knowing who I am, and holding on to that, is not something I’ve ever struggled with. In fact, I’ve been advised to be “less myself” (on the basis that I am, largely, an acquired taste). However, I am OK with that. If being myself means I don’t have to much deal with the people who can’t handle who I am, that sounds like a good outcome. I guess I am very much unapologetically me. I am a lawyer, and a writer, but have never struggled with these two facets. they are both me, just different outlets. And I don’t believe people change – we learn new things, change our attitudes, go through different experiences, but fundamentally we usually remain the same. I am older and wiser than I once was, but still, essentially, the same person.

    • Hooray for being an “acquired taste.” I love that! 🙂

      I’m interested in your statement that people don’t change. It’s an age-old debate, isn’t it? Can a person really change, or do we inevitably revert to our “essence?” I certainly don’t claim to have the answer, but I tend to lean towards the idea that people can change at a fairly deep level. I do think that there are certain elements of “threads” that remain constant, but I think that we can add and subtract elements, too. Perhaps we can never fully eliminate an element of our past. Perhaps even our best efforts to rid ourselves of some unwanted attribute still leaves us with a shadow scar. And perhaps it is impossible to truly integrate a new belief or manner. But, I do not think that should keep us from trying to become the best human beings we can be.

      Thanks for sharing & getting my mind spinning again!

  17. I feel the same way. I’ve recently joined a media school, and it seems as if everyone belongs somewhere with the only exception being me. But, I’m coming to terms with that. Awsum post BTW! Please do check out my blog as well!

    • Maybe instead of fitting into an existing “somewhere,” you can look at this as an opportunity to create your own place to fit in. 🙂

      Thanks much for the kind words and for being here.

  18. Jamieeeee #HUGSS

    I am reading Influence by Robert C, and your article reminded me of a potent weapon of influence: Consistency and Commitment.

    Mr. Cialdini mentions our tendency to remain consistent with a prior commitment JUST to avoid public censure. For instance, say I make a public announcement to update my blog every week. I shall be more inclined to uphold my promise not because of any internal motivation, but because I don’t want others to judge me as flaky or inconsistent.

    My commitment – to update every week – pushes me to be consistent in order to align my action with my words.

    Unfortunately, like every weapon of influence, this one too could be exploited by those who want to yank us down and make us feel like foolish for daring to dream.

    Say your first book – a romantic comedy – hits the New York Times Bestseller list. Your readers will now EXPECT you to uphold YOUR COMMITMENT to pen romantic comedies.

    Now say you change your mind and following that uber-successful romcom with a mystery. Your readers are now confused because they EXPECTED you to pen another romantic comedy..although their expectation doesn’t make sense because you never made any explicit promise to only write RomComs! LOL

    Consequently, even if your second novel reads even better than the first one, you might be panned by critics and readers alike. You might be called inconsistent and unsure!

    People fail to realize that – like you said – you are a WRITER who yearns to play with words, who years to go where her passion takes her, who yearns to explore!

    Humans love labels and stereotypes – keeps the world from being too confusing. But when these labels start to strangle your dreams, you forcefully ‘un’strangle yourself and follow your heart ❤

    Dang – I didn't mean to write so much 😦 BUT YOU , ,my lovely lady, always make me think ,3

    OODLES of love and hugs
    Kitto

  19. Kitto,
    You can write as much as you want whenever you want. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. 🙂

    I have always wanted to read Influence, but haven’t quite got around to it (something I hesitate to admit given my profession as a marketer). I love the parallels you’ve drawn from his seminal work to the world of writing. Humans do love labels and stereotypes. They make it easier for us to process the world. BUT, they come at a price – false boundaries, glass ceilings, and broken dreams. Better to be able to invent ourselves and our lives using all the colors outside the lines, so to speak … being allowed to evolve and emerge in a natural way.

    It’s something to strive for.
    Thanks, as always, for coming by. Have a great weekend!

  20. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Dear Writer, You are weird. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Live to Write – Write to Live

  21. Hi Jamie! I loved your post. Defining or (redefining) ourselves is the most difficult thing. I think that when we write, no matter what (a novel, poetry, even academic papers in my case), we always question our identity, because in the end, we are what we do and what we think. Writing is a great journey towards discovering yourself. Thank you for this post.

    • Daria, my sincere apologies for this seriously belated response. Just happened upon your comment while responding to recent ones from my “Top 10 of 2015” post.

      Love your take on “boiling down” the ideas in this post. You nailed it. 🙂
      Here’s to discovering ourselves and enjoying the journey!

  22. Pingback: How to be yourself when writing non-fiction? Thoughts on identity and academic writing. | Daria's Kitchen

  23. Jamie, thank you for helping me feel less isolated for not figuring out “who I am” yet. You’re right ~ while trying to please everyone, we often lose a piece of ourselves. I think your points reinforce why I’m struggling with finding a niche for my writing. I keep reading that the more specialized I am, the more credibility I will achieve. However, it’s not that simple. How do I focus on only one aspect of my personality when I there’s so much more to share?

    • Debbie, my sincere apologies for this seriously belated response. Just happened upon your comment while responding to recent ones from my “Top 10 of 2015” post.

      The niche thing is tough. How can we compartmentalize ourselves? I think writers have a particularly tough time separating themselves from their work because in most cases it’s so obvious that it’s very closely associated with who we are. I continue to look for the best way to “present” myself professionally. It’s an ever-evolving challenge. I have inadvertently specialized to a certain extent in my B2B writing, but I was actually just thinking this morning of switching up my Twitter profile to focus more exclusively on my fiction writing interests.

      I think it’s always going to be a work-in-progress, but maybe that’s a good thing. After all, we’re always changing and growing as people. I suppose it makes sense that the way we put ourselves out there will change as well.

      Good luck!

  24. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Just Be Yourself. Yeah, Right. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Debbie Dey WRITES

  25. Pingback: Your Favorite 2015 “Weekend Edition” and “Short and Sweet” Writing Posts | Live to Write – Write to Live

  26. Jaime, I ended up in quite a difficult spot with my blog two years ago. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease where my muscles attack themselves and it is treated through medication including prednisone. Back in 2012, I was on a read winning streak when I’d overcome hurdle after hurdle which culminated in skiing down a mountain. The trouble was that even while I was skiing, I developed the start of what turned out to be a serious life-threatening pneumonia. When they scanned my lungs, they found out I had active fibrosis in my lungs and I ended up having chemo right before Christmas and my life was hanging in the balance.
    It was very difficult to know how to handle this on my blog which had a motivational tone with an infusion of humour. These people hadn’t signed up to go through a life and death struggle with some woman they blogged with. People were popping by for a bit of a laugh, friendship and it was also just before Christmas. I was suddenly the lead balloon of lead balloons.
    I decided I really had no choice but be honest with my readers. There probably has been a shift in my readership as my health goes up and down as the content I cover changes.
    What did make this worthwhile was this one day when I noticed my stats were quite out and I had a lot of views but low visitors that day and I found out that a woman with my rare disease was reading my blog while she was having chemo and she was reading from post to post. Knowing that I was there just for her, makes it worthwhile.
    As you can probably appreciate, this was a very intense time for me personally and it was hard to know how to handle it on the blog but I think that being honest and open without having to share every detail is the best way you can help other people.
    xx Rowena
    PS In case you haven’t gathered, I’m reading through your top 10 posts of the year. Getting through them and really enjoying them and trying to get through them tonight in case I don’t get back but it’s getting late. Yet again I am stealing time from my sleep to read and write.

    • Hello, Rowena. I’m so flattered that you’re taking the time to cruise through all these posts. ❤

      Wendy Thomas (one of the other writers here on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog) has dealt with some similar evolutions to her blogging topics. She writes about – among other things – keeping chickens, parenting, frugal living, healthy eating, writing, and her family's battles with severe Lyme disease. She recently posted that for 2016 she'll be adopting a "topic per day" approach so that readers will know when she's going to be writing about which areas of her life. It's a solid solution for a writer with so many areas of interest.

      The case you mention sounds more like a "lifting of the veil" kind of experience – taking things to a slightly more behind-the-scenes/full disclosure kind of approach (with the appropriate boundaries, of course). This is, as my post relates, tough territory to navigate. There are some bloggers (like Jenny Lawson – aka The Bloggess) who put pretty much everything out there (and her fans, myself included, love her for it). There are other bloggers who are "all business" and inhabit a kind of blogger persona when they write.

      Having been at this for almost a decade, I find that I lean more towards trying to keep my "persona" as "holistic" and "authentic" as possible. That doesn't mean I air all my dirty laundry, but it does mean that I allow myself to share my thoughts even when they diverge from my usual Pollyanna-esque vibe. It's never easy. I always feel like I'm letting people down when I draw back the curtain and reveal a Not So Good Day, but it also feels honest. And, I like that.
      🙂

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