“But it’s all been said before!”
Have you ever found yourself saying this when it comes to writing your big idea?
Maybe this little refrain keeps you from really committing to blogging.
Or maybe it’s caused you to start and stop on that book you want to write so many times you feel like you’re in rush hour gridlock.
I’ll be honest. I’ve said this before. Many, many times. I’ve let this thought discourage and depress me.
But I’ve got a secret for shutting down this totally useless thought. Yup, I said useless. Your ego thinks this thought is protecting you from making a giant fool of yourself by repeating what’s already gone around. But this is oh-so not true. And the secret I’m going to share with you for shutting down this thought will also explain why it’s not serving you — or anyone else.
I have a really good friend whose wisdom and perspective I value to a crazy degree. Over the years, he’s helped me out of mental and emotional tight spots and no-man’s-lands. He’s given me a lot of the best advice I’ve ever received.
Which was why it was extremely discombobulating when he started spouting utter nonsense.
I distinctly remember that I was scrubbing the tile surrounding the bathroom sink in my little cottage in Los Gatos (I clean when I talk on the phone), and Joel was saying that happiness is a choice. It’s not dependent on your circumstance. You just have to choose to be happy. I thought he was full of rubbish.
I had no idea what he meant. I mean, I knew what each of the words in the sentence meant, but strung together, they were gibberish.
It was like hearing an idiom you’ve never heard before. Like when I was in Spanish class in middle school and we learned the phrase El mundo es un pañuelo. The world is a handkerchief. Huh?!
Now, that statement might strike you very differently from the way it hit me. (The one about happiness, that is, not the handkerchief.)
I know it hits me completely differently now. But at the time, I completely dismissed Joel’s words because they clearly didn’t apply to me. And I went on with my life.
Oh, THAT’S What You Meant!
In 2014 or so I picked up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love at a library book sale. I’d been resisting reading this book for ages because I’ve got a prejudice about things that are popular.
How good can it be if everyone else likes it?
But there is was, and I’d just paid $2 for a brown paper grocery sack that I could now fill to the brim with books. Maybe the bargain hunter in me won out. Or maybe some small part of me knew that this book was exactly what I needed. Maybe a guardian angel guided my hand. I’ll never know for sure.
For the next week or so I read like my life depended on it. And actually, it did. My life, the way it is now, absolutely depended on getting the message of that book: that we choose to be happy or unhappy.
“Oh! THAT’S what Joel was trying to tell me!”
I had no doubt. This book was delivering to me the message that I’d completely disregarded four years earlier.
I realized that Joel had tried to share with me a truth he’d uncovered. He saw that it would really help me. He’d learned it for himself, and he thought he could pass it along to me by telling me directly.
But his message wasn’t right for me. Firstly, I wasn’t ready for it in 2010. It was more than my ego could handle at that point in my journey.
Not only did I not understand what Joel was trying to tell me, I didn’t WANT to understand. I thought he was full of baloney. I didn’t want to live in a world where the fact that I was unhappy was somehow in my control.
A few years and dozens of hours of therapy later, I was ready for the truth of that message. But by that time I’d forgotten Joel’s words.
Until I read a story.
As I watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s narrative unfold, I had a lightning bolt of understanding. That’s when I remembered Joel’s words from years before and finally understood what they meant.
Which led me to two hugely important truths:
- We need to hear things at the right time.
- We need to hear things in the right way.
It’s not just that I needed the message to circle back around to me later. I specifically needed to learn it in a story. That’s what makes sense to my brain. I need you to show me, not tell me.
What If the Message Had Given Up On Me?
I shudder to think what kind of life I might be living right now if I hadn’t gotten a second crack at the message that I must choose to be happy. That I have the ultimate responsibility and the ultimate power to create the happiness I want in my life.
Actually, I can take a pretty good guess at what this would have looked like:
- I would still be mired in jealousy and depression, wondering why everyone else got to be happy while I had to suffer.
- I wouldn’t have sought out EFT or meditation, and as a result, I highly doubt I would be married to my incredible husband or mom to my precious kitty cat.
- I probably wouldn’t have ever pivoted my business to do what I’m doing now. I wouldn’t get to help other people write from their hearts.
- I very likely wouldn’t have written or published my books.
- And I sure as hell wouldn’t have up-leveled my creativity by reading Big Magic, or had one of the most amazingly moving and inspiring nights of my life seeing Liz Gilbert live in conversation with Pico Iyer.
What if Elizabeth Gilbert had scrapped her first draft of Eat, Pray, Love, thinking, “Eh, it’s all been said before.”?
That’s the question I ask myself whenever I hear my ego say, “It’s all been said before. There’s nothing new under the sun.”
I remind myself that powerful messages are like sunbeams: One is not enough to warm the whole Earth. We’ve got to get the messages in all their different possible forms. In infinite variations and voices.
Because there are some pretty big truths out there that everyone deserves to know. But there’s no one way of delivering them that will resonate with everyone.
Don’t Give Up on the People Who Need You
What if right now there is someone out there waiting for a message. Maybe the message came to her before but she wasn’t ready. Or maybe she’s hearing the message all around her right now, but it’s not landing. It isn’t coming in the right package. She keeps hearing, “The world is a handkerchief” and shaking her head. If only someone would take her on the ride It’s a Small World, she would totally get it!
And what if the message she needs is EXACTLY the message you want to write?
What if it’s beautifully expressed in that blog post you won’t let yourself publish? What if it’s the entire theme of the book you never make time to work on?
Here, my friends, is the magic. If it turns out your message isn’t the right one for her, you lose nothing. She loses nothing.
But if it is… Oh boy! If it is, you’re about to change someone’s life in ways neither one of you can imagine. With chills running up and down her spine and tears of recognition and hope.
So go write it. Whatever message you have to share. Whatever idea you’ve been wrestling with in your mind.
Go write it. And go share it.
And then see what kind of magic happens.
Need some help to do that? That’s why I’m here. Schedule a free consultation and tell me what you want to put out into the world. I’ll help you make a plan and then follow through on it.