↠ Dispatch 001, August 2018 ↞
In search of creative identity
Hello you brave adventurer,
the one who signed up for a newsletter with only a hazy description of what it might be. Seriously, thank you friend for being here because this is an adventure for me too. As I wrote in the prologue to this project, the only way to find out what this newsletter will become is to navigate through it, and there is no plan. I do hope you’ll stick around but if all this is too much, the exit from this adventure is right here.
Figuring out the topic to launch a stream of thought for this first issue was a challenge, so thank you if you helped me decide via my Instagram poll. Looking back, the concept of ‘Identity’ is indeed an apt topic to kick things off because this newsletter is part of my journey in navigating my creative identity.
For what felt like a significant period of time, I kept a lot of personal projects tucked away in the cupboards of my mind and folders on my machines, never bringing anything to the outside world because I just wasn’t sure how that would fit with the image of me that is out there. I compartmentalised the identities that I was presenting to my colleagues, clients, students, friends, and communities; believing that life would be simpler that way. And in the name of preserving my privacy, I prevented the real me from revealing itself to the world. I think that was how I ended up stopping writing riffs like this which I so enjoyed back then. It never felt right, but I wasn’t able to get underneath the layers of that feeling until I discovered the works of Brene Brown.
In her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are’, she writes, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” That single phrase and subsequently my discovery of her body of work sparked my reflection: Was I actually running away from myself by not embracing the thoughts and ideas inside me? Am I scared of myself?
There are many self-help and inspirational articles out there that lectures mere mortals like me to embrace our unique identity and live with audacious authenticity. The TED talk about embracing the multi-potentialite in ourselves have been watched 5 million times, and one must have come across this famous stanza by Walt Whitman:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
There is also an unattributed phrase that exists in many variations which says, “The most powerful thing you can be is yourself” and right in that sentence, is a potent positive affirmation which is also the biggest battle that we face in our quest to embrace our selves. As Marianne Williamson writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” I could try to write something about this fear that I face but my friend Rebecca Toh already wrote something wonderful about it in a recent edition of her lovely newsletter:
In the end there is nothing to be afraid of except our own critical, judgemental selves – that dark and scary voice in our heads that makes the world out to be scarier than it really is. If we can bear to do the inner work (no matter how long it takes and how tough), if we can hug ourselves, give ourselves a pat on our shoulders and learn to be our own friend, that dark and scary voice will eventually go away. Then we’ll see that really, *there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of*.
A sense of freedom and confidence awaits those who can overcome that fear that we create for ourselves, and this entire newsletter is an attempt for me to fight all that, while drawing on the spirit of the late Anthony Bourdain:
“The absolute certainty that nobody was going to care about, read or buy “Kitchen Confidential” was what allowed me to write it. I didn’t have to think about what people expected. I didn’t care. As a result I was able to write the book, quickly and without tormenting myself. That was in many ways a very liberating place to be. I’ve kind of tried to stick with that business model since.” – Anthony Bourdain
Indeed, the mindset shift that allowed me to launch this newsletter is one that accepts the possibility that no one might actually read it. I’m thankful that you are here my friend, but even if that wasn’t the case, I will still be writing these dispatches as a practice to let go of who I think I’m supposed to be and embrace what I truly am through these words.
Maybe, at the end of it, we are all shapeshifters just trying to find our very own sweet spot in the spectrum of creative identities. Maybe some of us are just trying out different shapes, maybe some have already found one or a few shapes that we are comfortable with, and there are others who choose to spend their lives constantly shifting in the passage of time.
How about you? What have your search for your creative identity been like? Do send me your story if you would like to share. I would love to read it. In any case, this has been a long dispatch and I really appreciate you for reading this far. The next one will land at the next full moon and it will be about ‘Attention’. I hope you’ll be around for that one. 1Till then; be well, be love, be you.