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Be Yourself

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Audi ad, Maine magazine, September 2014

I have two novels in process.

Painstakingly, I am slogging my way through them. When I’ve written fiction, I’ve tried various plans –

  • having no plan and just going with it (and then running out of steam with nowhere to go 150 pages in)

  • having a precise map and Excel spreadsheet of characters, chapter headings, dates

  • beginning at the end and writing the last chapter first so I’ll always know where I’m heading

And yet, with all methods, slogging is the word that captures my progress. Painstaking. Arduous.

I rarely read fiction. Maybe that’s my problem.

I discovered the camp on a Maine lake we rented each year from when my younger son was aged one through ten kept showing up in my writing: as “place” in personal essays or articles, in writing contests, in chapters of the novels.

One summer, arriving home after yet another relaxing vacation at the lake, I felt drawn to write a book about the camp. I had a feeling there just might be something there.

The book flew.

I wrote with passion and a clear voice. I knew what I was talking about, what I wanted to capture and share. That little travel memoir practically wrote itself.

Then, came book #2 about being a working mom. Again, wham-o. The book flew. I was writing what I knew and what mattered to me, with enthusiasm. There was something I wanted (needed) to say, and I was saying it, clearly and with intention through nonfiction.

When I finally wrote about what spoke to me personally, I excavated my own writing voice and ultimately writing success. Success is so much more likely to come if you’re doing work that is authentic to you. Your authenticity breathes life into the work.

And then, those that read my work, I found, were my “tribe.” They were like-minded souls. We got each other. We read the same books, like the same sorts of things. My work connected me to others in such a positive way.

When I finally let go of pretense and should’s and just quietly became myself, the entire world shifted in my favor. Everything, not just the writing itself, became clearer, brighter, and joy filled.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

Photo: stones from the Maine shoreline

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