Journaling

Am I still me?

Dear Fellow Journalers,

This article by Jeff Goins is very insightful.

Sallie

Am I Still Me? (On Creativity and Changing)

It’s late morning, my second cup of coffee finished, and I stare out the window at pumpkins my kids decorated for Halloween. I see people wearing light jackets and notice the leaves turning yellow, gold, and brown. This is my favorite time of year.

Am I Still Me? (On Creativity and Changing)

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I’m not just thinking about the end of a year and what’s to come in January but also the end of a season of life and the passing of the kind I’ve person I’ve been.

It has officially been a decade since I started the blog goinswriter.com and the business that followed it. The next ten years will be vastly different from the previous ten.

Why? Because I have changed.

Not long ago, a friend drove several hours across state lines to see me. He told me the reason he made the trek was, “I wanted to see if you were still you.”

I don’t know that I am.

A biographer of Ernest Hemingway once remarked about his subject: “The greatest character [he] ever created was himself.” The first time I read that, it made me sad. What a depressing notion, I thought. This man who’d written so many great works did not even know who he was. What a perfect example of losing your soul to gain the whole world.

But now, I understand it differently. We all play multiple characters in our lives, each one of us, every single day:

Today, I called one of my colleagues to talk about work. We made a few decisions, and I asked her to do a few things.

Then, I texted a friend to see how she was doing after having a hard time the other night.

Later in the day, I will pick up my son from school, and we will have some friends over.

Which of these is the real me? All of them, of course. And maybe none.

I have always loved the quote by Anne Lamott: “I am all the ages I have ever been.” These roles are all me, or rather they are aspects of me—like facets of a diamond, each catching the light in a unique way. But at the same time, they are just the pieces others see. So who am I, really?

Perhaps a better question is: What am I?

There are, I think, two ways to answer:

  1. You are the sum of all your roles. If you add up everything you do and have done, that is what you are. And if you take all that away, you cease to be you.
  2. You are the one playing the roles. You are not just a character in a story—you are the author, the one making it happen. You are not just a parent, friend, boss, lover, or neighbor. You are the one behind all that.

Philosophers and psychologists have a name for this awareness beneath all this activity. They call it the Self. Some of us spend our whole lives playing roles while never coming into contact with our Selves.

So when a role gets threatened—maybe we lose a job or get a few gray hairs or go through a divorce—we freak out. We have identified so much with this aspect of ourselves that is now fading, the experience can feel like dying.

And in a way, it is.

But as we lose these parts of what we think we are, the true Self starts to be seen. This act of finding the deeper part of you that never fades may be the most important task of your life. It is certainly the best place from which to create.

Our most brilliant work, I believe, comes from a curiosity about life and the universe and who we are. The more curious you are about yourself, the more creative you can be. And when we hold on to these fixed notions of identity, we kill our capacity for what could be.

This thing called the Self, which the Greeks named “genius,” has a tremendous power to build worlds, construct cities, change jobs, play with kids, tie shoelaces, and do so much more. It can take on innumerable roles throughout life and solve almost any problem it comes up against—so long as we don’t get attached to any single expression of it. When we let go of what we think we are, we can create far more than we ever thought possible.

Why share this now?

At the very beginning of the pandemic, my friend Michael Port posed a question: “What role is being required of you right now?”

As an actor, Michael understands these roles we play are but costumes donned over a deeper identity. And when we understand this, we can serve in ways where our egos don’t interfere as much.

We are also free to play.

If I am not actually “Jeff Goins, bestselling author,” then I don’t have to take myself so damn seriously all the time. I can be a better friend and dad, a better coach, boss, and teacher. I can be a better writer, as well, allowing myself to take risks and try new things. Because there’s nothing to protect, rejection, criticism, and misunderstanding start to feel a little silly. After all, I was only playing.

When you realize “you” are just a character you have played, then you can start enjoying yourself. You can play the role well and have a little fun with it. When others see you doing that, they can’t help but be drawn into your orbit.

And if you find the costume you’re wearing no longer fits, you are free to change the character. You can create a whole new you, if you’d like. When the story you want to write with your life no longer fits into the one you’re living, it’s time to change it. Just remember: whatever new identity you assume is simply another role to play.

So to answer my friend: No, I am not the me I was a year ago. But I am becoming more of my Self than I have ever been. And a year from now, I hope to be unrecognizable yet again—to you and to me. Because that can mean only one thing: I’m growing.

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© Goins, Writer 2021. All rights reserved.

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Creativity

The end of summer

Dear Fellow Crafters,

Before you know it, you’ll be heading to the store to stock up on school supplies. Why not give summer a great last hurrah by checking a few things off the bucket list? Here are five fun ideas:

  1. Visit a sunflower maze. Corn mazes are an autumn staple, but many farms are planting a few acres of these bright blooms to provide a cheerful summer adventure (and a great photo op). Sunflowers are in bloom for a short time, so look for a farm near you that has a maze and be prepared to act quickly. Be mindful of the weather and be sure to bring water and sunblock. You might also want to wear closed-toe shoes, as you’ll be walking through a farm field.
  2. Plan a park-a-palooza. Dedicate a whole day to visiting all the awesome public parks in your area, making a point to seek out some you may have overlooked in the past. If there’s one with a splash pad, add it to your itinerary and bring along swimsuits and towels. Some parks might offer activities such as paddleboats, disc golf, basketball or skateboarding, so gather any gear you might need. Pack a picnic lunch and make your final stop the local ice cream shop (or have sundae fixings ready and waiting at home).
  3. Host a campfire cookout or marshmallow roast. Decorate with inexpensive goods, such as colorful bandannas and log slices, that fit the rustic, outdoorsy theme. If you like, pitch tents and camp out in your own backyard.
  4. Take game night to the next level and host one outdoors. Play traditional favorites, such as horseshoes or bags, or give something new a try. If you are looking for ideas, check out the article “Let’s Play!” in the Summer 2021 issue of Farmhouse Style.
  5. Visit your local farmers market to pick up your favorite garden goodies and then challenge family members to come up with recipes to use your haul, “Top Chef” style. Or gather your DIYer friends for a trip to the flea market and a friendly competition to see who can come up with the most creative way to revive or repurpose an item.

Sallie

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Journaling

Journaling after Covid

Dear Fellow Journalers,

When I look back at the journaling posts I wrote during the last two years, I see a pattern – one where I forged ahead during some of the same times you had. I wrote about food shortages, where to get masks, how to cope without going out anymore, fears at being near people. The craziest thing was how to wash a UPS package?!

I coped, like a lot of you, by reading, writing and crafting. I set lofty organizing goals but often did not follow through. I learned to stretch my food storage supplies. I remember moaning over the fact that there was no rice or paper plates for days! I discovered new meals I dug out from old cookbooks. I even started this blog!

When I was finally “set free” after my two shots, I felt a gigantic weight lift off my back. Feeling relatively safe, I could venture out into my community. Ah, life!

As life begins again, I hope I don’t loose the resilient spirit I gained. I only read about the Great Depression, World War I & II food shortages. Now I can say, I lived during Covid and I hope so became a stronger, better person for it.

Sallie

Writing

Should you change?

Dear Fellow Writers,

So, as I was reading through some recent reviews, I saw a person’s question that made me stop and think. She wondered if danger was lurking in the foreseeable future for one of my characters. I began to wonder, should I change my writing style or theme for a reader?

I’ve been writing fan fiction for about two years now and have a whopping (!) 7 stories published. I’ve learned a lot in the short space of time – how to turn a phrase, accept criticism, develop a character or theme. I’ve discovered why I liked writing in the first place so long ago and lament the lost years when I didn’t write anything except for a “thank you note”.

One thing that has begun to plague me is when I get an email or comment from a guest who wants me to change my focus or theme. For instance, the story I am writing now, focuses on a family time when one character is “baby sitting” the younger one. It’s a nice, cozy read and the commentator wants me to put one or more characters in danger. I thought about that and wondered if I should introduce an element of danger into the story but decided that the theme would be shattered if I did.

Advice from a trusted friend confirmed my thoughts when they wrote me:

Sallie


It’s a good thing to get feedback, comments and constructive criticism from loyal readers. However, you the writer, must write what you like and feel comfortable with. Once in awhile you may take a reader’s comment/suggestion and use it in your story, but don’t get caught up in writing too much or make changes according to your readers because that will be a detour from you writing what you want and it does cause writer’s block, frustration, and a blocking of those creative juices.  I’m speaking from experience.