Note: it is almost impossible to get on the Ask Havi list. This person got in by a. being one of my clients or students, b. flattering the hell out of my duck, and c. making life easy on me by being clear about what the question was and what details I could use.
Here’s the question. It’s a good one.
“You talk a lot about doing the thing and helping your right people. And I really (most of the time, at least) want to do my thing but I just can’t believe that my thing has any value.
“How do you have confidence that your thing is worth saying and/or offering and that it will be helpful for people? What if it’s boring? What if it’s not original?”
This has to feel really scary and frustrating.
And then on top of that, I’m getting that you’re also feeling anxious because you need to know that your work will actually help people.
And you want to be able to trust that focusing on doing your thing is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.
That makes sense.
So … I think I might be able to help here.
A few thoughts. Three, to be exact.
Thought 1: Let’s assume your worst fears are correct.
Let’s pretend that what you have to say is boring, unoriginal and stupid.
You know what? It’s STILL going to help people.
That’s because there is a weird, almost magical thing that happens when one person connects with another person with the intention of destuckifying something.
There’s power to that intention. And power to getting an outside perspective.
Also to being heard and acknowledged and validated and all that good stuff.
So if the people who need your thing show up with their stucknesses and their fears and their doubts, and your thing helps them, as I’m sure it will … who cares if you think it was trite and uninspired?
When you share your thing, I guarantee that at least five people’s lives will be transformed. Even on the days when you think your thing is boring and pointless.*
*I have those days too. All the time.
And if you can have a part in transforming people’s lives, you’re not going to hide from the people who need you, right?
Thought 2: Your stuff doesn’t have to be helpful for everyone.
It just needs to be helpful for the people who need it in that form in that moment.
Those are your Right People. The ones who need your voice.
Anyone who doesn’t find it helpful? Probably not one of your Right People. Or not ready yet.
That person can go. Be there for the ones who do need what you have to say.
(For more on this theme, take a look at some of the other posts in the Blogging Therapy series.)
Thought 3: Original? What’s that? And who cares?
Helpful and original are two totally unrelated things.
All of us can be helpful. Original? Not so much.
Here’s a completely unoriginal thought that was probably just as unoriginal when it was written:
There’s nothing new under the sun.**
**Go buy Ex Libris and read Anne Fadiman’s hilarious essay on plagiarism with that title.
And even if there is new stuff out there, it’s just not necessary to be all innovative to facilitate the life-shifting understandings that people will have from interacting with your thing.
Saying what you have to say in your voice at the right time is everything.
The thought doesn’t have to be creative or inventive or original (really, nothing I’m saying in this entire post is original).
Original is overrated. Because it’s going to help them whether you like it or not.
The unique bit is the way that you phrase it or explain it or demonstrate it. Or the way they hear it.
Your particular flavor or take on something will lead them to their moment of OH!
You will be the facilitator of the OH. And the people who need that OH will be saying hell yeah.
That’s what I’ve got.
So if you’re worried about whether or not it has value — yes, it has value.
And if you’re worried about it not being original, it can’t be original. So much for that.
And if you’re worried about being boring, it won’t be boring for your Right People because it’s exactly what they need right now. That’s part of what makes them your Right People.
And if you still think it’s no good, I say that it will still help people anyway. And they need you to stop second-guessing yourself for a few minutes so they can learn what you have to teach.
But I’ll also say that it’s natural and normal and human to go through cycles of doubting and not knowing.
That’s one of the things that will help you be a terrific teacher. Because you’ll know what your people are going through and you’ll be able to identify with their pain.
And, as time goes by, you’ll be able to identify with their pain without always being in it. Which will help them become teachers too.
Twitter version of this post:
“The people who need what you have to say are waiting for you and they don’t care that you think it’s boring, unoriginal or lacking in value.”
This is *just* what I needed to hear today. Even though I love my work and people tell me it changes their lives, I still worry that I’m boring as hell and unoriginal.
Not to the people who need what I do.
You just did my heart good, Havi. As usual. (HUG!)
Great Havi. There’s nothing new under the sun I reckon – everything helpful you could ever tell someone is probably in the bible somewhere or the Qur’an or the I Ching and everything else is out there on the net somewhere, it’s just the voice you bring to it.
John Williamss last blog post..How to write a comedy routine
Gee, why do I feel as though this post is directed straight at me? (chuckling)
I really do get stuck in the “need to be original” trap all the time, so it’s especially good to hear that originality is overrated. Maybe I should get that one tattooed on my wrist where I can see it all the time.
I’m thinking about your Twitter version of this post (I love that you’re doing those, btw), and it occurs to me that thinking I’m being boring, unoriginal, or lacking in value is actually a weird sort of narcissism. If it’s true that people need what I’m saying **in the unique way I’m saying it,** then it’s kind of egotistical of me NOT to offer it up because I’m worried that it’s not good enough.
Or is that me just being too hard on myself again? :o)
In any case, thanks again, Havi. Really, really helpful, this one.
Michelle Russells last blog post..Why Getting Things Wrong is Vital to Your Well-Being
Big a-ha moment for me here. Chewing on it; wallowing in it.
Lori Paximadiss last blog post..find me in Yellow Springs
You guys! Hi!
@Jen – oh fantastic. And what a perfect example. Because whenever I describe your work to people I’m always using words like “different” and “innovative” and “unexpected” and “brilliant”, because to me it’s all new and exciting and sparkly.
But of course that wouldn’t mean that it would always feel that way for you. And then I have those days (like on Tuesday) where I think that what I’ve written is so completely meaningless and uninspired and then someone else gets this big moment of ohmygosh from it.
@Michelle – that *would* be pretty original if you tattooed “originality is overrated” on your arm! Nice.
And hiding makes sense to me. I mean, it seems like the safe thing to do, you know?
@John – totally. So right. It’s all old wisdom. That’s why it’s so wise. 🙂
@Lori – *blows kiss*
I think this post is what my folklore professor called a performative utterance: saying is also doing it (as in, “I promise,” “I swear,” and “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife.) Because here are all these people who needed to hear exactly what only you could say–Jen and Michelle and John and Lori and me! I was a Right Person today too. At the very exact moment when I was saying to myself, “I’m not a very good novelist, and this idea for a novel is kind of silly, and there are super-geniuses writing books so incredibly rich and transformative that you aren’t fit to dust their bookshelves, and who would want to read your book anyway, and don’t embarrass yourself by going on with this . . .” Havi was saying, “Someone *is* waiting for this book,” and actually, that’s literally true. That publisher wasn’t being nice; she’s waiting for me to give her the rest of the book.
Havi, today you are my stained glass window through which the universe shines. And also a pirate.
Melyndas last blog post..Anniversary
I’ve never posted before but I just wanted to say your blog is one of the very few that I really connect with – thank you Havi. It feels like you can see straight into my thoughts!
Anyway I’m developing a website at the moment and I’m constantly worrying that my content is boring and unoriginal. Thank you for the understanding 🙂
This is a tough issue for me. When I started my blog I tried to make a resolution to only write what would be helpful for me, but every time I post something specific to my stuck I worry that I should be making it more general. That if I was writing for an audience I’d have more readers and be making more of an impact on the blog-o-sphere. I keep at it because I can feel bits of my stuck loosening and I keep thinking the next self-indulgent post will be the last, but it’s hard. Thanks for reminding everyone that their right people are out there. Hearing that you believe it almost makes me believe it.
@Keely – oh yeah, me too. I often have that “oh, make it more general” thought.
And the “don’t just write about your own stuff” thought.
And the “oh god, there you go about your stupid life again” thought.
And it’s taken a LOT of time to realize (over and over and over again) that those are the posts that are the most meaningful for people.
So yeah, it’s totally not self-indulgent, even though it feels that way. It’s making it easier for people to identify with what you’re going through. 🙂
@Melynda – awesome. Also: are you sure you didn’t borrow *my* inner voice? Because that stuff sounds pretty familiar.
It’s always so awesome to come by here.
There’s always something positive or something that “fits” so perfectly.
These Blogging Therapy sessions are fantastic! (I know this one isn’t exactly part of it, but it fits.)
It’s so inspiring and uplifting… my brain just melted again. 😉
Andrews last blog post..What do you want in life?
I think a lot of times, you need to find the “right people”, and a lot of times, you are not one of the “right people”. You wrote that stuff. You already knew all that stuff. You will not find it useful.
But the right people will.
Kelvin Kaos last blog post..Farewell, Analog Television
I’ve been in a horrible funk for a few months now, and just in the past few days have started to feel like my old self. And an old business idea came back to me in a fresh new way that is inspiring me. Except that this morning I started thinking, “who the hell would pay me for THIS? There’s so much free information online already… What I can offer is better but will people see that and pay me for it? and… and… and…”
And then I read this. Oh yeah. My right people. They’ll get it. And when it’s the right time they’ll be happy to pay me for the value I know I can give them. That value they can’t get anywhere else; at least not in the way that I can say it.
Re-inspired. Thank you.
I did something completely original once. Then Mom made me clean it up… ;^P
It’s tough, though, when your Right People don’t hang out together already.
Sometimes I feel like my blogging efforts are a mix of the pods in The Matrix and Monet’s haystacks. My reader-attraction policy seems to go like this:
See a field of haystacks. Go to the first haystack at the end of a row. Wave a giant magnet over it. Out pops a needle – or not. Move on to next haystack. Repeat until finished with the last haystack. Then start over.
Sometimes new needles come to the haystacks that I’ve previously visited while I’ve been working elsewhere. So, I don’t want to miss them. But I have to accept that I will miss some. Or they’ll find my place when they’re ready.
RhondaLs last blog post..Hunt Country Stable Tour, Day One â€“ Part 1
I think Kelvin’s comment is a great point. If I have to learn something totally new and huge, I usually end up producing a book* for myself, out of necessity. (*book meaning booklet, cheatsheets, flowcharts, whatever.) It’s ironic that I’m usually super-eager to finish this thing — like yes! I am going to have the perfect reference for x subject, carefully crafted and designed for me! — and then . . hmmm. As the book nears completion, I really don’t need it anymore, because that’s how I’ve learned that subject. Then it all seems kind of lame. (Who needs a pamphlet on antiquarian book terminology in German? Not me anymore, etc.) Later I realize that not everybody does this in their spare time. And in the same way that I pass along extra housewares or furniture, I can pass along this knowledge to someone else who needs it . . (to turn them on to the hip world of German antiquarian-book terminology, as it were.) And that part feels good.
Thanks, Havi! This is one of the bigger things I’ve been dealing with. Also, one of the most valuable things I get from reading your blog is the way you take stuff I either already know or sort of already know, and phrase it in a way that is much more useful to me than the way I had it in my head before. The shoe-throwing post was a perfect example of that, and I actually printed it and put it in my desk so I can reread it when I’m dealing with shoe-throwing.
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Havi, I love-love-love your blog. This is exactly what I needed to read. I can feel the tone of my blog writing starting to shift, and I think it’s heading in the direction of the wisdom of this post. Thank you for writing this.
Catherine Cantieri, Sorteds last blog post..Taming Time: Chronic lateness
The Twitter version is now tacked to my wall.
“So if the people who need your thing show up with their stucknesses and their fears and their doubts, and your thing helps them…” Nicely said. When a critic comes at you with the comments ‘Uninspired and boring’ and yet there are others who find you useful, the problem usually with the critic. It is as much an obligation of the critc to search for the right source as it is for the source to provide the right ‘thing.’
Freds last blog post..Who Needs Innovation Training?
That is a great thing to hear. I recently decided to share my stuff even if nobody listens, I have been journalling this stuff for a while now.
Havi you are the queen of de-stuck. thanks for all your help.
Jonathans last blog post..Love thyself
I quickly realised, since starting my blog, that the posts I thought would be boring to anyone but me turned out to be the ones that touched people the most. For some reason, though, it seems harder for me to apply this understanding to my Thing. I think your post helped me with this, so I may now be able to move forward a little faster with my project. Yay! Hey, you’re right: my Right People are waiting for it, so I’d better get it to them as soon as possible!
No, my project isn’t totally original, so it’s good to remember that there are people out there who need my take on it. Also, Kelvin’s comment is a fabulous reminder that our own need right now for what we have to offer isn’t the best way to evaluate its value: I used to need that thing, I’ve searched and learned, and now I must connect with those who need it and share with them. Sounds like a plan!
Josianes last blog post..Creative vegan tip of the day!
Thanks Havi! And thanks everyone! I seem to be another one of the right people at my right time (3 months after the post).
Just spent until 3 am writing an ebook to help the jobless people in Puerto Rico and this morning assaulted by the good ol’ “duuuude!!! why? Who cares?” But it’s not the first time…
Havi, the way you validate stuff is destucking, your serenity is a healthy pop-up on my screen.
[wait! What are you doing writing this comment idiot! Who cares!] 🙂
.-= Joaquin´s last blog ..Ok, pero ¿cómo vamos a resolver el problema? =-.