Monday, January 25, 2010

Being YOU

First, hop on over to Matt's blog. If you are a nerd, you will appreciate that little gem of genius there. Made my day. Now I'm picturing Han Solo with a British accent. Mmm...wait, what was I doing? Blogging, right.

I'm gonna let you guys in on a little secret. It might be shocking, so brace yourselves:

Not everyone likes me.

I know. How in the world is that possible? I'm the most likable person in the world! Everyone in the Universe should love me! ...Or maybe I actually come off rather aloof in person. And sometimes people read that as me thinking I'm superior, when it's really a wall built to hide how fragile and insecure I am...

Something like that.

This used to really bother me, this whole idea that there are people in the world who don't like me. Oh who am I kidding? Sometimes it STILL bothers me.

I think it's safe to say that most people want to be liked, and sometimes we give up part of ourselves to get it. I don't know how this whole being-someone-else-to-be-liked goes in boy land, but I can tell you it's nearly a disease in girls. Even women. My oh my, I've seen it so many times. In my friends, my family, myself. We try to mold ourselves into what other people expect us to be, and sometimes it feels like we have to cut off limbs just to fit our square selves into that round hole.

To some extent, we all live dual lives, the inside never quite matching up to what people see on the outside. As if being ourselves is something completely unacceptable.

I'm not sure where this way of thinking came from. Maybe it's been ingrained in us so long no one really knows. But I've always hated it, and perhaps that's why I've met with my fair share of bullies. I've never been able to give up much of myself, never been able to pretend I'm someone else for very long. I've tried, and it always leaves me feeling like crap. Like I'm being stifled. Not a fan.

So not everyone likes me, but those who do I am happy to say like me. Not a mask. That's rewarding in its own way. I dare say it's nicer to have the real affection of few than to have the false affection of many.

I've said this before—several times, even—but I'm constantly in need of my own personal pep talks. You gotta Rock What You Got. You have to be YOU. There's no one else who can do it better.

In the writing world, as in any creative field, a lot of comparing gets thrown around. It's hard not to do, but I can tell you it's a waste of time. I've been there, and it just makes you feel ugly and worthless and sad.

And you shouldn't, because there is only one person in the world who can write what you do. Please don't make me tell you who, because I think it's pretty obvious by now.

Sometimes I tease Kiersten—especially after I finish one of her amazing books like I did today (I know, I'm totally rubbing that in)—that I wish I could be her so I'd know everything she knows about her worlds. She inevitably says something sappy like, "But then I wouldn't get to read your books! I love your books."

I roll my eyes, but the truth of that is deep and pure and keeps me going more than I can say. I may never be an award winner or a bestseller or whatever, but my unique voice resonates with some people. That, friends, is the most rewarding part of writing. And it doesn't take a book deal or an agent or anything to get. It just takes the right person connecting with your work and sharing a moment that transcends the words on the page. When writer and reader create meaning together.

I live for that, and I know it can only come through being myself on the page. Yeah, some people may not like it. Fine. But I have to write for me and the people who do connect with my words. Carving myself to fit in a different hole would make me incredibly unhappy.

So, be yourself. You've heard it a thousand times, but I think we all need reminding now and then.


  1. I think I need a reminder of this more often than I probably should...

    Thanks for this :)

  2. We definitely need reminding of that. Every time I read a great book I remind myself that I don't have to write like that author to be successful or have a good book. The comparison game can be devastating in any aspect of our lives.

    You are so right about connecting with a reader. I love nothing more than to have someone (just a single person) connect with what I've read, even if it's just a line or a scene or a ridiculous blog post. As usual, well-said, Natalie.

  3. It is better to be hated for who you are then loved for who you are not. Thanks for posting this. I think a lot of us needed to hear it. (My writers workshop is killing my writing.) I agree with you completely and hope that you will always continue to be yourself!!!


  4. I dare say it's nicer to have the real affection of few than to have the false affection of many.

    Love that line and it's so true. Great reminder to be true to ourselves because we're much happier that way.

  5. I am often lost, but then I realize the entire journey is about finding myself.

    I forget this too often though, thanks for reminding me.

  6. Needed this today. I'm very aware (while on submission) that my book will probably be a hard sell. My agent is passionate about it. Still, novels-in-verse don't exactly fly off the shelves.


  7. Well Natalie, I don't know you in person but I love the blogging you.

    You're so open and honest and FUNNY and that really resonates with me.

    So keep being you, cause you're the only YOU and the world would be poorer without your wise words of writerly encouragement.

  8. Very insightful and profound. Integrity is key in so many aspects of our lives, including our writing. Finding and using your unique voice helps ensure that the mark you leave in the literary world really is yours. That is perhaps more important than any amount of money you earn or awards you win.

    Although the money and awards part sure sounds nice. :)

  9. I needed this today. Really bad.

    "When writer and reader create meaning together." This is one of the greatest things to feel, both as a writer and as a reader. I can't tell you how much I love reading something and feeling like someone finally got it. I love that.

  10. Mmm pep talk! :D

    "I live for that, and I know it can only come through being myself on the page. Yeah, some people may not like it. Fine. But I have to write for me and the people who do connect with my words. Carving myself to fit in a different hole would make me incredibly unhappy."

    I think a lot of young writers go through that at first. I certainly did. I was trying so hard to be Literary, that I completely missed the fact that I might be better at (and thus enjoy more) something else.

    Now I wouldn't say I was *unhappy*, because I was still writing and I do love literary fiction. But I definitely was pushing myself too hard in a direction I wasn't meant to go. Now I'm finding a new path (or perhaps a happier middle ground) and it's much, much better (for me). :)

  11. Huzzah! I think this can be a depressingly easy thing to forget, or deny. Especially when we have people we really think SHOULD like us, but for some reason don't...

    I shed a lot of these issues a few years ago, but I still harbor one, close to my chest. I very rarely indulge in my creepy side, my love of things dark and spooky and unsettling, because I think a lot of the people I know and respect would be put off by it.

    And I care. Not enough to totally deny myself, but enough to tone down when in the company of others. There is a thin line between consideration and lying. One that should be thrown out the window in our writing.

    Anyway, love you blog, adore your books!

  12. I hate when writers compare themselves to others - for good or bad. It assumes there's a baseline that doesn't actually exist.

    All writers are not created equal. Two talented writers can be given the same prompt, situation, even first line, and the resulting pieces will be so different that line will be the only similarity in the final products.

    One you might like, one you might hate, or you might love them all. The genres may not even be the same, but they absolutely cannot be held up next to each other and quantified.

  13. Beyond true, Natalie. It's the hardest thing in the world NOT to compare. Or to read too much into one's words -- especially on the internet.

    My motto: Assume good will.

  14. So true. I've gotten better at just being me as I've gotten older and not comparing myself to others or trying to conform so much, but writing is definitely one area where I still struggle!

  15. Very, very true! It's sometimes hard to be ourselves, but it's the only way to be happy :)

  16. Ah, this is a lesson that took me many years to learn. Trying to please other people will only bring you pain in the long run. So it's better to be true to yourself. Very nice post!

  17. I did notice you're sort of aloof in person. I took it to mean you don't like me or you're unsure about me. I suppose that's why people may not like you, because they think you don't like them. But I've read your words and even if you are aloof in person I still feel I know you or at least the part of you you're willing to share and I like you.
    I know what you mean about comparing our writing to others. It's so discouraging to read a finished novel and have it be so incredible and then wish I could write just like that. I can't write just like that though. I can only write like me - and then hope one day someone will read my work and they'll be wishing they could write like me - only kidding. Sort of.

  18. You're such an advice columnist sometimes. You seem to always know exactly what to say! Thanks!

  19. Yeah, see Mary? Sorry! I like you! I just get so nervous and never know what to say and and and...


    I'm so much better in print. Less anxiety, so my brain actually finds the words it intends.

  20. Being Someone to be Liked in Boy Land:

    1. Cool boys are good at sports, so I will play sports.
    2. I suck at sports.
    3. Boys mock me to make themselves appear cooler than they really are.
    4. I join one of the uncool cliques where I can be me, or at least pretend to be cool more effectively (possible positions include: nerd, techie, drama geek, goth, or token white guy in the Asian crowd).

    Dang, I forgot how much I hated highschool.

  21. Don't worry Natalie. I don't take things too personally. I always feel that if someone doesn't like me now - just wait you'll really hate...I mean like me later. *grin*

  22. You are right, we all lead double lives.

    Sometimes I think I live a triple life...but the reality is that we all hide behind something.

    That is why sometimes it is so hard to take criticism about our writing, because sometimes it's the one place we don't hide.


  23. Good advice. Sadly, though, such a thing is easier said than done. But, if it helps, I like you! :)

  24. There are people that don't like you?? Hmmm. Weird. :) Well, I like you all sorts. And I love your books. Also, your post is so true. It's easy to find myself wanting everyone to like me and my books. And when people don't, it hurts. But if I'm okay with me, then it doesn't matter how other people feel about me. Thanks for the pep talk.

  25. Many of my favorite books deal with this very issue. It's important that we not only stay true to ourselves, but that you keep your characters genuine too.

  26. Aw, Natalie! I really love reading your blog! You always know just what to say to give me a boost about my own writing self-esteem!

    Please, please, please keep it up!

    p.s. Who could possibly not like you?

  27. Beautifully said. Thanks for that.

    Also, The 98 degrees (boy band anyone?) song "true to yourself" (or something like that) just popped into my's a line from the chorus: Open your eyes, your heart can tell you no lies.

    Did that ^ make sense at all? Lol. Oh well.

    And I really don't see how anyone could not like you. You're awesome! :D

  28. Not everyone likes me and that is fine.

    I wish I'd understood this a lot earlier in my life!

  29. Funny, I had almost *exactly* this conversation with a friend last night. Out of my brain, Natalie - I know it's warm and squishy in there, but still :)

    I used to try and compromise who I was to fit in. I was terrible at it, and I spent years doing it.

    Then I got good at it practically overnight, and I started to fool people. And it only took a few weeks of successfully being someone else before I lost my temper with it and abandoned the whole endeavour and went back to being me.

    Believing advice like this earlier would have helped a lot.

  30. Pep talks AND Han Solo? This is why YOU are so kewl.

  31. me and my daughter talked about this too.. I still struggle much the way she does.. but I have to rise above it somehow and teach her to realize 'it's ok.'

  32. Hi~ I enjoyed reading your blog! This entry comes at the perfect time... I'm off on Friday to spend the weekend with my four sisters. I love them, but I'm hurtled back to that place a hundred years ago when we all lived together, criticized each other... I've gotta stay centered through the drama :P

    I agree with you: Each of us as writers has our own author's voice, as unique to us as our fingerprints. When we embrace that fact, and relax, our writing becomes fluid and sensational.

    Thanks for the reminder :))

  33. Well Natalie, I've only met you once and thought you were pretty cool. I mean the whole ninja daughter thing? Made me laugh. =)

    I think people do put up walls to protect themselves. I wish everyone liked me, but not everyone does. I enjoy writing, quiet nights and watching a good play. While other girls go dancing, have get togethers and play practical jokes on each other. Both things are okay, we are just different.

    I love your blog. Although I have only been following for a short time, you are very real here. I love it. =) Thanks for the awesome post.

  34. Thank you Natalie. I need this today more than in a long, long time. Thank you for being you! Always brightens my day. :)

  35. Awww, who doesn’t like you? What’s not to like? You’re funny, sweet, and helpful! I know what you mean though. When you write you put yourself out there, for the world to see, and it can feel daunting and nerve-wracking. There is an urge to protect yourself, to hide yourself away, but I think the best writing comes from, as the quote goes “opening up a vein, and bleeding it out drop by drop.” If your blog posts are anything like your writing, I know you’re a talented writer, because you write from the heart. There’s a void in the YA section where Relax, I’m a Ninja and your other books should be. I am sad I can’t actually read them yet. But they will be published very soon I’m sure!

    Thanks for the great post!