These words of wisdom were carved in Latin above the doorframe in an epic film with which you might be familiar. Yes, I am referring to The Matrix. An awesome bit of advice for anyone who must play a multitude of roles in their day to day lives.
These roles are many and varied. We play roles ranging from author to editor, spouse, parent, employer, employee, friend, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, sister and brother; the list goes on. How much time do we really take to get to know ourselves? What and who are you when you are no longer playing your chosen roles in life? If you shed your many cloaks and masks, who would you find underneath?
It leads one to wonder about how we take steps to get to know ourselves. We see it so often, how people are influenced by others, losing a part of their identity in the process, like a friend who entirely loses sight of her own likes and dislikes when immersed in a relationship. What she enjoyed last year, she disdains in the present, and an idea that was abhorrent to her when she was dating so-and-so, she wholeheartedly embraces in the face of her new relationship with Mr. X.
Shakespeare wrote ‘to thine own self be true’. Why aren’t we true to ourselves? Why do we suddenly decide that we no longer drink red wine because our new beau only enjoys beer? Is it to be accepted or loved? Shouldn’t we celebrate our differences rather than try to be the same as everybody else? Why do we do things that make us unhappy to please others?
How do we cure ourselves of following the flock and embrace who we are as individuals? I think a good place to begin is to ask yourself one simple question: why? Why do I…? Then insert the necessary. Establish your own unbiased likes and dislikes. For example, if you enjoy watching comedy movies, don’t give them up entirely for something else because your partner won’t watch them with you. This may seem like a little thing, but it compromises something you enjoy. Too often, these sorts of minor sacrifices are not a two-way street.
If you cannot be true to yourself, how can you effectively create and improve your skills as an author? Creating a magical world using the written word takes courage, dedication and clear vision. You are putting a piece of your soul into your work and, to do that effectively, authors need to be grounded and sure of their motivations, as well as themselves. This need not be a massive undertaking in which you throw everything in your life into turmoil. Changes for the good can be subtle, like making the effort to watch that Jane Eyre special on Wednesday evenings. You might want to take a look at the relationships in your life, cutting ties with toxic friends and fixing things that are broken in otherwise salvageable relationships.
Start looking more closely at your writing. Are you writing about things that you feel passionate about? Are you creating your characters as you see them in your mind’s eye, or are you creating characters that you think others expect you to create? Do you stick to safer paths for fear of rejection or ridicule? Pioneers in any field faced similar obstacles, yet they spoke their minds and followed their hearts, achieving acclaim for breaking the mould and creating something new.
Don’t be afraid to push boundaries when it comes to your writing and remember to listen to your inner voice; it will never steer you wrong. Good luck and happy writing!