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Somehow I seem to have surrounded myself in life with friends who are amazing with words.
I’m sure you know what I mean. They are those people who always have the perfect encouraging or comforting thing to say when a friend is having a hard time. They are those who can send back a witty, hilarious email at the drop of a hat. They are those who can pair a poignant lyric with a melody that gives an entire audience goosebumps. They are those who can write the blog post that says it all. They are those who can pray words that give a glimpse into heaven itself. They are those (well, many of them) who even chose to be writers, editors, English teachers, linguists, songwriters or bloggers, and get to spend their workdays creating and honing and sharing beautiful words with the world for a living.
And I love them for that.
Seriously. I don’t know how I crossed paths in life with so many people who have a gift with language and use it for so much dang good, but it’s awesome. And so often, I get to take a front row seat and even be the recipient of their thoughtful words, which inspire, amaze, challenge, encourage, crack me up, make me thankful, and often mean the world to me pretty much daily. As Proverbs puts it, “gracious words are honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Gah, so true.
I, on the other hand, have seemed to struggle more and more with words as the years go on.
I don’t really know why that is. As a kid, I felt like I was pretty well-spoken and definitely well-read. But as I’ve gotten older, I feel like the words that I’m searching for often lie farther and farther beyond my reach. While ironically, I feel like I can now recognize and appreciate beautifully crafted words and literature all the more. It’s a weird and frustrating and, at times, discouraging tension.
I feel the weight of it in conversations with friends, when all too often it seems like my brain gets foggy and my tongue gets tied when I try to put whatever’s on my heart into words, both in the serious moments as well as the random lighter everyday moments. And I’ve definitely felt the weight of it on this Life page of the blog lately, where I feel like I have all of these things I want to say and write about but feel a little paralyzed by the actual articulating things part of writer’s block. I know that most of that is probably due to perfectionism or comparison or a lack of confidence getting in the way. And that yes, I totally acknowledge that I’m at least “decent” with words, and that I’m my own worst critic. (Trust me, not trying to be self-deprecating or beg for affirmation here!)
But the fact just remains that I don’t feel like words are really my strong suit.
And as much as I might really really wish they were, I’m trying to let that be “ok”.
And actually, maybe even move beyond “ok” and embrace and even (gah!) try to love that part of myself. Perhaps especially in the times when I’m hopelessly awkward or say the wrong thing. Or when the only thing I can think of to say about a recipe is that OMG-I-made-this-and-it-was-delicious-and-you-should-totally-try-it for the 100th time. Or when the best response I can come up with to a friend who’s hurting is just to offer a smile and a hug and a bowl of homemade soup.
Because I know — I know — that what’s most important is the heart behind a person’s words, no matter how fabulous or inarticulate they may be. That’s without a doubt the most important thing to me with other people. (Like, times ten!!) So I’m trying to be a little more gracious and gentle with myself and let that be the most important thing for me as well. And in life and on the blog, stop letting my own red pen stop me from chiming in on things that are important to me.
So anyway, random thoughts on a sunny Saturday. I’m admittedly publishing this mostly to hold myself accountable and hopefully get back to more writing. But if any of you relate — either with words or any other real (or perceived) areas of weakness in your life — take some advice from Kit Kat’s and give yourself a break. :)
And just be you. Imperfect and wonderful and all.
You have so, so many gifts Ali! I think you are an excellent writer and would never have fathomed that you see that as a less than superior skill set! It is true that “comparison is the thief” of joy (Roosevelt) and you are wise to embrace just accepting yourself as-is. :)
I don’t know if you’d count me as one of the “good with words” people you’ve known. But if so (or at least as someone who’s made my living with words for most of my life), I’d want you to know how often I feel uncreative, dull, struggling to connect, “so many writers are so much better than I am,” etc. In some ways, writing is such a hard way to live. You never get to see anyone nodding and smiling at something you say, never watch faces light up when a point becomes clear, never know whether your reader is someone who’s heard you say it all before or a person who just tuned in so that “oh-my-gosh-I-made-this-and-it-was-delicious-and-you-should-totally-try-it” is the first time for them. (You get a little more of that in the blogging world, but even there there are hundreds or thousands more who never comment than there are who do.)
For what it’s worth, every single week when I start to tackle that week’s GPS, the blank page is daunting–“What the heck am I going to do to fill this thing THIS week?” Yes, there are all the prolific writers who make it all look SO easy, and maybe it even is for some of them. But for many, it’s tough, terrifying, many times unrewarding–yet somehow necessary. (If you want guides in the wilderness, I suggest Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” and Frederick Buechner’s “Speak What We Feel.” Buecher’s first line is, “Red Smith is reported to have said that it’s really very easy to be a writer–all you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”) And, for what it’s worth, I’m one person who thinks you are really good with words.
And just one more thing (I may or may not be good with words, but sometimes I use a lot of them). When relating in person, there are an awful lot of times when a big smile and a hug are far, far more eloquent than even the best sentence ever written.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this topic because it is a reminder to me that my perceived weaknesses might very well be what someone else thinks are my strengths. One of the things I love most about your recipes (besides the fact that they are yummy!) is that I feel like I am sitting on a kitchen stool just chatting about life while you cook. The words in your posts make me want to cook with you so even though it is one of your perceived weaknesses, know that your way with words is one of the things I love most about your blog!