Lighting the Fire: On Realizing Yourself and Your Potential

I like to use the tagline “True Love, Know Thyself” because I believe that true knowledge of self – and understanding of self – is necessary before we can ever hope to really join ourselves to another in love. Sure, this knowledge continues to evolve – as we do – but how can we claim to know anything if we don’t even know what lies in our own hearts first?

It’s autumn, and I’m nearing the end of a terribly plotted WIP that will probably need a lot of time to be untangled in further drafts, which means I’ve also been a bit down – on the world, myself, you name it. And in a round-about way, this is what led me to this article at the Huffington Post:

“HuffJammach: Becoming Who We Already Are” by Omid Safi

Please, go read the post yourself, but it kind of got me thinking how this could be applied to writing and the journey towards becoming the best writer we can be – truly realizing our potential.

Now, I think it’s easy for us to start to wonder: do we have what it takes? Am I a writer? Am I any good? Which almost inevitably leads down the trail to: “My writing isn’t any good.” (Or at least, that’s how it is for me – if this doesn’t happen to you – please share how!).

Anyway, I think that our writing – just like any lousy first draft – is always in a phase. And if we really, truly want to be successful and for our books to be the best that they can be, we have to reach deep to find our real potential, to find and hone the ability, not settling for “good enough” or “it’s the best I can do” when that isn’t true. We all have the potential for greatness within us: that’s not a gift doled out only to the precious few. BUT, I think that only a few of us actually get to the point where we reach – and potentially exceed – our potential.

I’ll return to the first draft kind of example, but let’s try the example of a child first. When you first hold your child in your arms, that tiny baby that the world has not yet imprinted with anything, really – no negativity, perhaps not even a name – that child could do, become, achieve anything, absolutely anything. As they start to really interact with the world, it will become obvious that there are strengths and weaknesses – we all have those – but still so much potential, and they could overcome those weaknesses, certainly – they’re still young. Then they hit their teenage years, maybe they mess up, maybe those strengths and weaknesses are more engrained, more obvious. Sure, they can still overcome – they still have fantastic potential, but it won’t be as easy to make those changes now, maybe the window of potential is starting to narrow. By the twenties or thirties, “decisions” about life seem to be expected, and they should be well on their way to achieving what potential is still left to them – after all, some doors are closed, right? They had better be achieving that potential by their forties and fifties. And by the time you reach sixties and above, well really, what time do you have left? Potential was either reached, enjoyed, or never will be. What massive potential there was at the beginning is either miniscule, or perhaps “used up” entirely, like a box of tissues.

Why? And why do we seem to view our writing the same way?

When we first start out, it could be anything, it could be the best book we ever write, it could be the start of so many wonderful things! And then you hit the second draft, and you can still fix the problems – it will still be fantastic! Third draft, well, this is it, get it cleaned up, some problems may be there to stay, but it doesn’t ruin it, does it? The next book will be even better! Fourth draft, well, time to send it out into the world; it’s good enough. Not perfect, not the best book ever, but good. Then it keeps getting rejected, and soon every time you look at the thing, the writing is insipid, horrible – why did you ever imagine you could get anywhere with this?

Whether a late draft or an old man, why is there any less potential? Why is it somehow “used up”? It hasn’t gone anywhere, because all that potential always lies within us. It doesn’t go away. It never vanishes – just our ability to see it, to want to access it. Whether we’re 8 or 88, we always have potential – and so does our writing.

All we have to do is keep fighting for it, and always, ALWAYS, keep believing in it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!