Be What You Are

In her recent book, City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “‘Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.'”

This, in a line, sums up why I want to help people write.

It’s because you never know what’s going to happen, one day to the next. You never know what kind of wild detour is just around the corner. Writing grounds you in the facts of your life, and helps you make sense of everything that unfolds around you.

The human brain is, as we know, a wonder of complexity. But it’s an unreliable little machine, and tends to fixate on the worst of everything. It busily files away sweet memories that would ground us, and tidies up loose ends that would help us grow.

Writing is an intervention of sorts.

It’s a way to catalog the moments that make our lives meaningful, and to lean into the experiences that feel big and important, even though we don’t always have full perspective in the moment.

Keeping a written record of your life is kind of like creating a second brain for yourself — an intentional, curated brain that focuses on the stuff that really matters to you, not just the stuff that evolution has programmed in.

A writing practice helps you pay attention to your life, and inspiration comes from that attention.

This realisation came to me a few years ago, after working (in my old publishing job) on a book called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, written by mortician and death educator, Caitlin Doughty.

For a book about the death industry, it’s surprisingly funny and I gotta tell you, it changed my life. I got a tattoo and everything.

That book made me realise that death goes on for a REALLY long time, and so you better make the most of the little window in which you are alive.

For me, that’s what writing is about. It’s about paying attention, and using my records as a way to make more active choices — choices that are going to help me make the absolute most of the time I have here.

Those records are also treasure troves of inspiration.

If you’re ever stuck for ideas about what to write, go back and read your old journals. There are hundreds, thousands, of different possible lives recorded in those pages, which could make for great stories, great lessons.

And not only that — there are many more possible lives waiting for you in the future, and by studying your records, you might just be inspired to take a risk on a bigger, brighter future for yourself.

The important thing to remember is that you only get one life. If you’re not sure you’re spending it right way, writing about it can help. It will help you be what you are, and to make the most of every moment of it.