10 Items at the Heart of Who I am

A little introspection on a Sunday morning.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash
“When I walk into [the studio] I am alone, but I am alone with my body, ambition, ideas, passions, needs, memories, goals, prejudices, distractions, fears. These ten items are at the heart of who I am. Whatever I am going to create will be a reflection of how these have shaped my life, and how I’ve learned to channel my experiences into them.”
 — Twila Tharp, The Creative Habit

What an interesting exercise, to think about yourself and imagine that you’re divided into ten parts. I think it would be cool if this became a meme. I’ll start!


Mine is middle-aged. It’s less fat than it used to be, but still fat. It used to be athletic. It’s arthritic in the hips and maybe the right shoulder. It’s tall and a little awkward. My arms face backward, that’s always bothered me. Gorilla arms. My body is strong. It always has been. It was stronger, though, when it was fatter, which is interesting. I live with an expectation that my body will fail me. I have an assumption that I’ll get cancer, especially. I don’t always love my body and that’s something that I work with varying degrees of success.


Ambition is my driving force. I’ve known since I was ten-years-old exactly what I want out of life and I’ve never wavered. Never once. I have written nearly every single day since then. I’ve read like a maniac. I have studied and pursued and continued past when any sane person would have given up.


I took a test once that said that my most prevalent strength is ideas. I am an idea person to my core and I’m drawn like a moth to a flame to other people’s ideas. Ideas excite me. I have a strong tendency to focus on the big picture — the way an idea might turn out — and I tend to struggle with the steps it takes to get there. As a result, I never have any problem getting my hopes up. Getting my hopes up is actually one of my favorite things.


I’m passionate about stories — my own and other people’s. It doesn’t matter what form they come in: books, news, movies, television, orally. I love to teach. I love to learn. I’m passionate especially about teaching other people to write their own stories.


I need a baseline of security. To answer this question, I thought about what it is that draws my attention away from other things. I have no real desire to be wealthy, but I need to be not poor or all my focus goes to that. I was food-scarcity-level poor as a teenager and young adult, and I need to have a certain amount of food in my house or else, again, all of my focus and energy is drawn to that issue. I need my family, and I need to know they’re safe.


This is an interesting one. In fact, I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago and stopped here. I don’t have many memories before the age of 8 or 10. I’m not sure why. I have some very painful memories, of course, everyone does. But I tend to forget them. Or not forget. I don’t dwell on them. I can’t spend too much time with bad things. It might be self-protective. Or just the way my brain is put together. I don’t ever hold a grudge. Every once in a while someone will say something that makes it clear they expect me to be angry or upset over some past hurt, and I have completely forgotten it. I forgive easily as a result.


Oh, I am such a goals girl. Like I said, I’m driven by ambition. My ambition takes shape in goals. I love New Year’s resolutions (and birthday resolutions, and first day of summer/fall/winter/spring resolutions, and . . . ) I’m not always great on follow through. Maybe because I set so many goals. Some filter up and get met. Some peter out. And that’s okay. Thankfully, I’m not prone to beating myself up over unmet goals.


Eep. This one was hard to think about. Another word for prejudice is preconception. An idea formed ahead of experience. I have my prejudices. I know that I judge people who don’t read. I look at a group of people and my brain automatically sorts them by size. I don’t even know all the ways my preconceived ideas manifest, I guess, but I do know that I’m almost always pleasantly surprised when I reach out beyond my comfort zone. People are constantly surprising me.


Oh, man. I’m so easily distracted by new ideas. They’re constantly bombarding me and making finishing the thing I’m working on. And I’m distracted by other people’s ideas, too. The second someone shares one with me, I get so excited. Next thing I know, I’m planning some kind of world domination with someone else — that has nothing to do with my own work or life or plans.


I live with a constant, low-key fear that I’m going to mess up. I’ll do or say the wrong thing, or the world will just shift, and all of the good things I’ve built in my life — especially Ninja Writers and my writing career — will pop like a soap bubble. I struggle with believing that the good things have any stability or strength. They always seem so fragile to me.

Your turn. If you write a post like this, be sure to tag me so I can read it. ❤

Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.