Who Is I? Coming up for Authentic Air in a Sea of Expectations
Take 1. It started with a character. “Who is “Cooper?”
I wrote it. Left it hanging.
I knew him. I felt like I knew everything about him. But something was nagging me. Something was missing.
I came back to it the hard way, with all sorts of contrived and borrowed notions and ideas and felt like giving it all away.
This was was not my character. This was a mish mash of what I thought my character should be.
It Wasn’t Him – It Was My Expectations of Him.
I had so many expectations of my character, I couldn’t hear him – truly hear him – over all the noise.
Take 2. “Who is Cooper?”
I went back to my trusted and true writing method. Set the timer on my phone for 13 minutes. Open up the Notes App and write. No thinking or expectations allowed. Whatever comes into my head – no matter how nonsensical or left field – gets written down.
It comes down quick. It knows it has a time limit.
Email to self. Make sense of later.
I do this every day. At least once, sometimes twice. Not always about characters. About plot points. Dialogue. Anything.
I ask a question and allow the question to be answered. I don’t get in its way. I stand back and let whatever comes out of me, come.
Sometimes I don’t even get to ask a question, whatever needs to come out will just flow.
Succinctly, quickly, beautifully, often final edit ready. Which is ironic, because in these short blast sessions there is no pressure on the writing to be pretty or edit ready in any way.
Without fail, what I consider my “best stuff” comes this way.
But I was protective with my character and precious about my knowledge of who I thought he was. I hadn’t done this with him. I knew him inside and out. Didn’t I?
As it turns out, not so much.
And when I did this with him, the answers surprised me. The writing surprised me. The character surprised me. I could actually hear him. He became real.
I do it with all of them now.
It’s a pretty trippy experience at times. But it works. They speak to me. They tell me who they actually are.
Take 3. Hey, this works on everything I’ve tried it with. Wow, what if I actually tried this on me?
But how would I word it? I didn’t want to ask “Who is Sarah Sofia Delaunay?” My brain just explodes with labels and roles and names for that one.
“Who am I?” Just feels wrong. Wishy, washy and cliched. Surface level. Label level. Can’t quite put my finger on it but it just doesn’t do it for me.
But “Who is I?” That worked. Grammar be damned. There’s way more exciting stuff going on here.
It seemed like an external question. More of an objective one. What is this “I?” as much as Who is “I”. I like it. It seemed like it might work for me.
I stared doing it.
Things started unfolding. They’re still unfolding.
I keep doing it.
Because it works.
The more you do it, the deeper you go. And the more layers you’ve shed when you surface for air.
Like my character, a more authentic version of me began to emerge.
Expectations – you know the ones: we give up our real selves for them so that other people feel more comfortable – faded away.
They were still there. They just didn’t carry the same weight. They weren’t mine. They were never mine. I’d known that. But feeling that is different to knowing that.
Knowing and feeling are different worlds.
The bullies – we all have them somewhere, online, in the work place, in our circle of family or circle of friends – ceased to bother me.
I’d always been probably overly sensitive to these types, and now nada. They bully, I smile.
They slide off me like teflon.
Their expectations don’t match my I. And now, when there is no match, I win.
And that changes everything. That makes life a whole other ball game.
And I am comfortable winning.
I am comfortable hanging in this space that perhaps only I understand is not only right for me, but is me.
And I am very, very comfortable moving closer and closer to it with the actions it now moves me to take, each and every day.
I believe that “Why?” is the most powerful word in the human language. I think that “Who is?” might be there on the same epic scale.
Powerful, powerful stuff and so easily achieved.
Routine is the key to everything. Create and delve routinely and it’s like jumping down another rabbit hole every day.
This doesn’t kill those sudden, out of the blue flashes of creative inspiration. Quite the opposite. You’ll get more of them and more often.
It’s like training for a sport. You train repetitively so on game day it becomes instinct, inspired, natural.
13 Minutes every day. No pressure. No preconceived anything. Just ask the questions, let go, and see what comes out.
Use it on your characters. Use it on yourself. Use it on both.
Give the authenticity its time and voice to speak and it will speak and it will be heard.
And it will win.
Flailing About on the Sea of Expectation
Stop. Surface. Take 13 minutes out of your busy day. Let it be heard.