There comes a time every week when I feel at a loss for words. Being that I’m a writer, you could understand my conundrum. I sit down with a blank page in front of me, and a voice comes from somewhere within the dark, echo of the cave in my brain, “Okay, what do I think? What do I really think? What am I thinking?!”
What can I tell people about life? What experiences do I have to share with other people? What would other people want to read? Can I teach someone reading my article something helpful without sounding like a preachy know it all who thinks I’m the Mother Theresa reincarnated? Gratitude journaling is great, but everyone already knows that. Breaking you goals down into steps; yes, we’ve all heard that too.
Sometimes it feels like all the words have already been spoken and there is nothing new to throw out there. We’ve all read those “deep” essays on Thought Catalog, and heard all the great speakers on podcasts and Oprah’s Soul Sessions. And so, I sit here thinking, what do I still have to share with readers? What if I write about how to find your own voice?
Growing up, and to this day, my mom and I have had a strange relationship. Sure, we’re polite and civil with each other (well, unless it’s day 4 of a week long visit to my parents house, then the gloves come off, manicured nails come out, and I must bite my tongue so hard I’m surprised I don’t taste blood.) But, we’ve never had what you would call a “close bond.”
We aren’t best friends like Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, we didn’t have girls nights or talk about boys when I was a teenager, and I always felt a distinct sense of competitiveness coming from her. She thought I was spoiled when good things happened to me, complained if she felt my outfit looked nicer than hers, and would sometimes copy something I was doing.
When I decided to take up freelance writing a couple years ago, she decided she wanted to start blogging. Silly as it may seem from an outside perspective, this always frustrated me. It weighed heavily on my thoughts; I felt like writing was my thing, and that she was trying to take that away from me too.
While I’ve learned to put it out of my mind for the most part, there are still times when I feel like I’ve lost my voice and my thoughts always come back to this feeling that my mom doesn’t wish the best for me in my writing career. While this is something deeply personal to share with strangers, it made me realize that we all have someone or something that heavily weighs on us at times, making us feel like we’ve lost our voice, and even ourselves.
When you’re lost for words and your brain feels hollow, what do you do? Do you hop on Facebook or binge watch a Netflix show, hoping to zone out? Can you read a book, hoping to fill your mind with someone else’s words and thoughts? Should you just down 8 shots of tequila with friends at the bar, hoping to truly make your mind go blank? All of the above might make you feel good in the moment, but it sure won’t help you in the long run.
We’re an instant gratification society because we have so much pain it’s easier to drown it out with Seinfeld, shopping, celebrity gossip or Instagram influencers than to truly feel it, or because we’re avoiding the fact that we don’t even know what we feel and have no words that can really explain it.
It’s not just writers, musicians, or painters that need help with finding their voice; we are all creative beings and it’s necessary that we learn how to express that.
Most of us are on a constant overload of stimulation and productivity. Millions of articles, videos, and podcasts are full of tips for being busy 24/7 like it’s a badge of honor, and not sleeping until you’ve achieved your life goals.
If Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs only slept 4 hours a night and Mark Zuckerberg wears the same hoodie everyday then you must do the same or you’ll never be successful, right? While following a schedule, making a to do list, and achieving your goals is something to strive for, it’s also important that you leave space for thinking.
Steven Spielberg had some of his best ideas while driving down the freeway. It’s in those moments when we’re on auto-pilot or when we’re doing nothing, when we can finally find our voice. It’s not that it’s gone or that we’ve lost our own thoughts and words, it’s that we haven’t been in silence with the ability to drown out all the opinions, the chatter, the absolute cacophony of noise that surrounds us at all hours of the day.
We must learn to be still again.
So, when I’m really lost for words, I realize it’s only because I haven’t been listening. A nice, silent walk in the woods would be perfect right about now.