Writers especially, but I imagine all creatives, are always looking at technique. We’re always talking about elements of writing, about the craft and how to get better at it, and while those are certainly things worth talking about, what I’ve seen from my own experience, first-hand and through others, is that the one thing we need to actually help us write is not so much someone to tell us how to write but someone to remind us that we can. What we need is not so much technique but encouragement.
I was listening to a friend last night tell a story about an event she had worked at that week with about 400 high school girls. In the middle of regaling us with the whirlwind experience that certainly must be 400 teenage girls in one room where you are, as my friend was, selling clothes, my friend mentioned something profound. It was one of those things that you realize has been at the back of your mind, and indeed in everyone else’s, this whole time, but you only fully realize that when someone says it out loud.
My friend is knee-deep in self-worth. She runs a company whose mission statement is all about building it in others through their products. So, naturally, at an event where her products are showcased, the subject came up. What my friend was so amazed by was not only how easily each of the girls talked to her about their own individual struggles but how openly they talked to each other. More than once when one girl would mention having self-image issues, another would pipe in that she did as well. And it was here that my friend said the thing most profound, “That was the most amazing thing. How they jumped in to say, ‘Me, too.’”
The more I learn, I more I’m convinced those are probably two of the most powerful words we can say: “Me, too.” Whether it’s self-image or depression or creativity, the ability to say “Me, too” shows up again and again as the most supportive, most enriching, and most valuable thing we can tell someone.
I’m struggling with my sense of self-worth. “Me, too.”
There are days I just can’t get out of bed. “Me, too.”
I think about the task in front of me, and I just freeze. “Me, too.”
It is freeing and comforting to know that we are not alone in the places we find ourselves, and it’s no coincidence that we need to know it most when we find ourselves in places we’d rather not be. No one ever bothers to wonder why good things happen. We don’t really need, or often want, to be reminded that others are doing just fine. But when we’re down, when we’re doubting, when we can’t motivate ourselves to do the things that we love, that we’re meant to do, that make us come alive, that’s when we need to hear that we aren’t alone.
It makes perfect sense, especially where the creative process is concerned. Creativity is, at its very core, an act of vulnerability, and if we know anything from Brene Brown it’s that shame is the enemy of vulnerability. And shame is crafty. It knows the one thing that will really get us out of our funk is connection and community. So what’s the one thing it convinces us we can’t do? What does it tell will only make things worse? Seeking connection, being open and honest with people about our struggles.
Vulnerability defeats shame, so shame will do anything to keep us from being vulnerable.
That’s why “me, too” has so much power. It’s the confirmation, the rubber stamp that says, “What you are feeling is valid. You are not crazy.” And we need to hear that in so many places.
Because the fact is the world needs you. It needs you to be as creative as you can be. That sounds like a slogan, and maybe it is, but I don’t care because it’s true. Maybe there’s something holding you back. Maybe it’s doubt at your abilities, maybe it’s fear at whether or not what you make will ever mean anything to anyone else, maybe it’s just confusion and intimidation at the size of the work before you.
I’m here to say to you: Me, too.
So this is your permission slip or your pep talk or your magic fairy godmother or whatever you need today. This is me telling you that what you are struggling with is not weird or unknown to the creative process. This is me telling you that I have struggled with the same thing. I’ve felt that shame that tells you, “You can’t. It’ll never work.” I’ve struggled, I do struggle with that fear and that doubt. Even after writing a half dozen novels, the idea of writing another, of 50,000 words itself, fills me with anxiety.
And you know what else?
You, too, can get through this. You, too, are good at what you do. You, too, have a gift that you need to use. You, too, do not have to listen to those voices that tell you can’t or you shouldn’t or it will never mean anything. You, too, need to get back in there and finish what you started.
Know that there are so many of us in there with you.
(Image by Chaitra: http://itspinkpot.com/creative-convex)