If we intend to give fully of our gifts in the world, we need to be able to use our whole minds. And if we want to do that, we need to be honest about how our minds work. Each of us has a unique mind, and we each have idiosyncrasies in the way we learn. We can harness our minds to do something that is meaningful to us, OR we can spend our lives believing we're not _____________ enough. You fill in the blank here. Would your word be creative, smart, clever, coordinated, or talented?
What I've come to understand is that, if I had not been honest with myself, I would not be doing what I'm doing now, namely, writing blogs and books. For way too long, I assumed I couldn't write. Comparing myself to authors I admired, I didn't dream that writing would ever be integral to my calling.
The shift occurred when I recognized the myth in my mind that if I wasn't perfect at all aspects of writing, I should not attempt it. My standards were high because my mother taught English and my father wrote weekly sermons. Some experiences in school further reinforced my perception that writing was not my strength. Even though I generally did well as a student and was often praised for the verbal answers I gave as I spoke them, something got lost whenever I tried to put my ideas on paper. Submitting anything written for a grade held no appeal for me. I could craft a decent term paper, but I hated the red marks. As a result, I chose to write only for myself and not share my writing with others.
For much of my life, I didn't question that choice. Only in recent years, as I've practiced reflection and exploration, have I learned to appreciate that I am very good at putting ideas together in new ways. I enjoy making connections, constructing metaphors, and discovering patterns. Pulling seemingly contradictory ideas into a truth or uncovering the power in a paradox brings me great delight, even though working through these thoughts can take days, weeks, or months. When I speak about them, my ideas tend to come out in a jumble before they're fully formed and may sound half-baked to people who are listening.
One of the challenges for me in becoming a writer involved accepting that part of my process is talking to others about my ideas before I commit anything to paper. I had to own the fact that this is the way my brain works and not feel embarrassed about it. I had to acknowledge that having this quirk of mind does not mean I'm operating at a deficit.
By verbalizing out loud, I expose flaws in my own thinking process, and then I am able to expand and shape my ideas more fully. I have to hear an idea first and rearrange the thoughts vocally before I write them down. My friends and colleagues understand that I need others in order to present my ideas to the world, and their support is essential to the way I learn and the way I write. Sometimes we'll mount big pieces of butcher paper on the wall and scribble my initial thoughts on them in colorful markers. Then, over the next several days, I'll look at them with the possibility of rearranging them or adding to them.
It's not until my ideas are more fully formed that I begin the actual writing. When I'm ready to share my draft with an audience, I again invite others to listen as I read the words out loud. I need their feedback to help me be sure I am communicating clearly. Over time, this process has made writing a joyful experience for me and for the others involved. But none of this would be happening if I hadn't been willing to reveal a truth about myself that I'd always felt I should hide.
Finding the courage to enlist the help of an editor was another challenge for me. I've learned that when I turn my writing over to her, I need to leave my ego at the door. I know that her talents make my talents better, just as those who listen to me as I compose ideas orally, help me refine my ideas. I trust my editor to look at the words I've written with a reader's eye and to know the rules of language that elude me.
Through these experiences, I've come to understand that my ideas are sound, even if I need support in presenting them. The way my mind functions is part of who I am, and I am not less because I haven't mastered all the skills necessary to refine my work for publication. I can contribute my gifts without knowing how to do everything well, and the involvement of others strengthens and enriches my soul as well as the writing I produce. If I had held to the belief that in order to write I would need to work alone or understand every fine point of grammar, you would not be reading this blog.
It's time to move beyond the belief that perfection is necessary before we can succeed. Trying to hide our quirks will only lead to worry, frustration, and struggle. Today, I am able to say, without hesitation, that what used to embarrass me now brings me joy.
As we pay more attention to our whole selves, we accumulate information about our minds and discover what strengths and challenges we have as learners. It's easiest to see our strengths by thinking about how we do things when we're very interested or motivated. When you're passionate about learning something, what are your strengths? What do you do relatively easily and well? Conversely, when you want to learn to do something new, what are your challenges? When might you need the help of others? Or what strategies do you use in support of the way your particular mind works?
If you're hesitating, you might be comparing yourself to other people. It's common to focus on how well others do something when you want to begin or learn to do it yourself, especially when being observed. The left brain, home to the comparative mind, can hold you hostage and keep you from discovering more about what you're capable of. But, if you focus on your limits, you constrain your life. When you can embrace the quirks of your mind and the way you learn, more is possible.