Earlier this week, I read an Anne Lamott article in which she says a few things so well, I don’t think anybody again will ever say them better. (“There were entire books written on the subject of the overly sensitive child. What the term meant was that you noticed how unhappy or crazy your parents were.” // “Any healthy half-awake person is occasionally going to be pierced with a sense of the unfairness and the catastrophe of life for ninety-five percent of the people on this earth.” // “One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was that I was going to need a lot of help, and for a long time.”) As a writer, there are two ways you can respond when you read an article like that. You can be happy such good writing exists, resonating in different sentences with what you’ve seen to be true, written in a way that cuts to the point—or you can be bummed out, because, hello, you weren’t the one creating it. This, of course, goes for more than writing.
I hear from people all the time who don’t want to blog because “there are so many blogs out there.” Or from creators (Etsy shop owners, amateur photographers, cooks) who label themselves as “not very good” at some or the other skill. I’ve had three different people—women, which is probably significant—this last month tell me how bad they are at cooking, despite the fact they want to learn. I understand what they’re saying; they’re looking beautiful meals, measuring their beginner food skills up against them, feeling like they’ve failed. They’re eating at amazing restaurants or going to killer chef demonstrations like that one we saw in Maine, loving the presentations and having no idea how to achieve them. But listen, loving something excellent doesn’t negate the joy of trying, even when that trying means failing, to replicate it or re-create it yourself. A botched attempt at waffles is still, if nothing else, an attempt. There is glory in the process. There is beauty in the stumbling.
But the bigger issue, at least on my mind right now, is the way we imperfect, inadequate, frustrated creators respond to work we see as Really Good, especially when we think the work we are making isn’t. We read that article, we watch that clip, we look at our friend’s living room, and we think, This Is Amazing And I Don’t Measure Up.
So as Cheryl says, Let me show you another way.
You don’t have to view life as competition. You don’t have to be the best. You can rejoice in beauty, wherever it comes from, knowing that a world with beauty is a world in which all of us would much rather live. You can read a friend’s blog post, even when it looks better than anything you’ve ever tried, and rejoice with your friend because, man, she brought beauty to the world, to your world. Sure, there will be a gross little voice inside of you when you do this, a gross little voice that wants to tear her down, criticize her work, bring up some mistake she’s made before—all to make yourself feel better, all to hit back at that inadequate feeling nobody likes. Practice ignoring that impulse. Practice cheering her on instead. We’re together in this world. We need each other. Realize it now.
Be the one to delight in beauty, any and all of it.
Be the one to call out light, from wherever it’s found.
This is a secret to a blessed life. This is something I’ve learned from this blog and from the larger world to which it belongs, as I’ve surrounded myself by thinkers and creators and food lovers and crafters and authors and friends.
I’ll give you a good place to start: Ashley McLaughlin’s new book, Baked Doughnuts for Everyone. Tim and I made the Boston cream version last night, one of 100+ gluten-free baked doughnuts in the book, and when I scooped the extra vanilla cream to my mouth, custardy and puddingy and mmmm vanilla, I closed my eyes and sighed. It’s such a treat to open up a new cookbook, pick a recipe inside, follow the directions, and wind up with something incredibly good. We had doughnuts last night (and this morning) because of Ashley’s work testing the recipe, taking its picture, putting it into a book. Well done, Ashley. Thanks for the joy you gave our lives this week.
Disclosure: We were given a review copy of this cookbook and a couple of samples of Videri chocolate for inclusion in this post. All opinions express are our own.