Writer’s Block: Pitting “well-rounded” against authenticity

originally published in The Moody Standard, issue 78.2, on September 26, 2012

Authenticity is a struggle in both writing and editing. Every writer thinks and writes differently, and when I edit an article, I have to remember that my voice is not the writer’s voice. The writer’s voice is the one that should be heard.

I’ve run into the same issue after reading an author with a strong, unique voice. If I write anything immediately afterwards I catch myself trying to mimic the cadence of another’s words – and typically failing.

I’ve found that my writing is strongest when it is my own and no one else’s, and our newspaper is richer when each piece clearly communicates from within the parameters of each writer’s style.

I’m learning that my life, like my writing voice, is fuller and richer when I’m not striving to be some other girl.

There’s a culture among many women today, the newest incarnation of the “Renaissance man” of ages past. I’m tempted to call it the Pinterest culture, but it’s a prevailing theme on the internet at large and seeps into our everyday lives when we’re not looking.

According to the internet, women are supposed to be extraordinarily well-rounded. And when I say well-rounded, I mean a crafty, resourceful seamstress who knows how to scrapbook and crochet while preparing seven-layer rainbow cake for a baby shower she planned and decorated after updating her knowledge with the latest movies and all the books  she reads while visiting all the most important landmarks in her respective city.

For a Moody girl, this might mean being well educated on both historically significant and current theologians; being well versed in current Christian and classic literature; having strong healthy relationships with your floor, your brother floor, your boyfriend, and at least a third of the rest of campus; and decorating your living space in a way that shows just how crafty you are. It can mean maintaining good grades; dressing well, yet creatively; cooking for the boys at open house; working out regularly in Solheim; and accessorizing your French-braided hair every day.

Oh, and don’t forget about knowing where the best secret coffee shops are, being deeply passionate about at least a few current issues, and being witty enough to get a few laughs at every SDR meal.

And despite this attitude being perpetuated the most by female-dominated websites like Pinterest, Moody men could probably compile in half a minute a similar list of all the things they feel expected to do and be. It’s not a gender-specific issue.

I’ve come to realize that this “be all-do all” attitude essentially steals much of life’s joy. I’m learning that I don’t have to do everything a so-called well-rounded person does. No, I don’t know a lot about the latest theologians. I’m can’t make a card for everyone who has a birthday this week. I don’t knit anymore, and I’m not going to cook a complicated dinner for anyone anytime soon. I can’t make it to every Joe’s event, floor event or conference.

But I am learning to cook a few small things. I’m using the year to read a lot of fiction. I’m enjoying my new job even when I’m editing into the wee hours of the night. And I’m excited to start attending a small group with my church on the weeks that I can.

There’s no sense in thinking that I must be good at, participate in, and enjoy the things someone else is. I can’t be all.  I  can’t do all.

Because when I seek to do everything that everyone else does, the only result is a parody of a life – a caricature of all the shiny people in the internet and on the streets.

If instead I focus on what I actually like to do, the activities I’m skilled at, and the ministries I have time to pour energy into – the things God has given me a penchant for – I have more time and energy to fully enjoy them and do them as best I can.

From now on, Pinterest can still be an interesting three-minute break from homework once in awhile – but it will no longer dictate my to-do list.

 



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