“You really want to find a way to get paid for being yourself,” [Oprah] told the audience earlier, with reference to finding your purpose in life.
During the course of my life, I’ve worked very hard, and often with success, at things that didn’t come naturally. But in the end, I do best—and certainly most enjoy—what comes naturally. By the way, the fact that something “comes naturally” doesn’t mean that it’s easy or doesn’t require tremendous amounts of practice.
I wish I could tell my younger self: Make a photo diary before you leave this place! You think you won’t forget, but you will! Instead of taking photos of unusual sights, take a photo of the most usual sights. In the future, you’ll be a lot more interested in seeing a photo of your dorm-room closet or your laundromat than seeing a photo of the Louvre.
How about you? Do you ever wish you had photos from ordinary days in the past?
…and it’s been driving me nuts all day because I knew I’d written almost exactly the same thing once upon a time but I couldn’t find it—Snark Zone? no. AB article? no. Blog post? no. Random musings in some long-forgotten writing file? no. And then blam, just a few minutes ago, I realized what it was. First Communication paper I wrote back in 2005. Bingo, in the section titled “The Value of a Diary”:
Once, perusing an old photo album, I noticed I was spending more time looking at the background of the photos than the foreground, looking beyond the smiling faces to the bits and pieces of life accidentally captured in recording the “big” life moments. I suddenly felt that this record of the ordinary mundanity of life was significant—not only did it have an authenticity that the posed foreground did not, but it was important precisely because it would otherwise have been forgotten. Reading a diary is like noticing the background in old photos. It is a record of the things one did not fully notice when one was in the moment because they were just there.
[Y]ou don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling yourself how great you are, or even from other people telling you how great you are. You get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that you yourself find estimable.
For instance, you feel better about yourself when you keep a difficult resolution, meet a challenge, solve a problem, learn a skill, or cross something unpleasant off your to-do list. And one of the best ways to feel better about yourself is to help someone else. Do good, feel good.
I had a friend who went through a period of tremendous rejection: she was fired from her job, she didn’t get into the graduate program to which she’d applied, and her boyfriend broke up with her. Everything worked out fine, and I asked her how she got through such a tough time. She said, “I was practically addicted to doing good deeds for other people. It was the only way I could make myself feel like I wasn’t a total loser.”
1. Write every day.
2. Even fifteen minutes is long enough to write.
3. Remember that good ideas often come during the revision stage.
4. Don’t binge-write.
5. Keep a commonplace book, inspiration board, scrapbook, or catch-all box to keep track of ideas and images.
6. Consider physical comfort.
7. Down with boredom.
8. Stuck? Go for a walk and read a good book.
9. Have something to say!