As Only You CanFeb 11, 2021
Post written by Katie Wall.
"The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." —Neil Gaiman
I stumbled on this quote from Neil Gaiman recently and it stopped me in my tracks.
For as long as I can remember, I've struggled to find intrinsic value in myself. I'm constantly measuring myself against some standard or other as a way to validate my worth. I rarely feel content or peaceful, since the small voice in me that doesn't believe I'm enough keeps chattering antagonistically at me, pushing me to do more so I can satisfy arbitrary and unattainable standards. This voice makes promises that I can be enough if I force myself to do xyz and prove myself worthwhile… and then I can spend time on the things I love to do without having to wrap them in productivity. In the meantime, it says:
"You can write if it will benefit your family financially."
"You can spend time out in nature if you're active for your health's sake."
"You can read if it's for more than just pleasure."
"Eat the food that's easily available instead of cooking what you really want to eat because you just have to fuel your body."
"Don't waste time, ever."
But when I read this quote… I stopped. The little girl in me who just wants to have fun creating and being present in the moment and trying all sorts of interesting foods—she stirred sleepily from her dark and tiny corner in my mind and blinked at the flickering light of hope.
Hope that this can really be true, for me.
I was originally going to write about how this quote is such a beautiful expression of every person's value. And it is. But as I sat with it I realized that I believe it for everyone except myself.
I delight in talking with writers who write because they love creating a good story and they believe in story's inherent power to change the world.
I love watching my children play in the moment, not worrying about what comes next or having to achieve the next milestone.
But I haven't yet been able to allow myself to do those things.
There's another quote that has been pretty influential in my life over the past 12 years or so. It reads:
"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." —Frederick Buechner
If you're not comfortable thinking about a deity, feel free to substitute "life" or "reality" or "fate"—the quote still works.
I've historically read this quote as a guide for discerning my vocation, as a way to try to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my life.
I was still looking for another standard, another milestone to reach before I can believe that I am enough.
However, when I paired this with Neil Gaiman's quote, I realized:
The world is hungry for people who can live fully present, who are filled with joy by doing what they love, who take pleasure in being themselves.
And that is also what will bring me "deep gladness."
So I will try to consciously give myself permission to be creative for the sake of creativity.
I will try to give myself permission to be in the moment instead of thinking ten steps ahead.
I will try to remember that I have value simply because I exist, not because of anything I do.
And I hope you can do the same.
Write a scene or short story where you are the main character doing something you love in a way that makes it uniquely yours.
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