You are a verb
When you don’t know who you want to be (neither right now nor when you grow up)
Oscar Wilde said that if you know exactly what do you want to be, then you inevitably become it — that is your punishment. But if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing — a writer, an actress — I am a person who does things — I write, I act — and I never know what I am going to do next. That’s human, and just okay.
I think you can get stuck if you think of yourself as a noun. You keep doing things just because you think you’re supposed to. So often we confuse the question of ‘who are you?’ with the question ‘what do you do?’. Have you ever considered that who you really are contains so much more than what are you simply doing in your life right now?
There is a constant change and flow everywhere in nature — glaciers are just rivers that are moving very slowly — so how could there not be a flow in each of us? Or at least in most of us? When we detach and step out of our cosy comfort zone, when we confront something that overwhelms our senses, when we go back to the nature to have our own revelations, we instinctively feel that we carry so much more inside of us. When we allow ourselves, we long for something greater. It’s ancient, and really simple.
In times of strife, we have our imagination, we have our creative impulse, which are things that are more important than material things. They are the things that we should magnify. I believe that creativity is one of the most essential things about being a human being.
Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn’t make such a big freaking deal out of it.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
So many people think you have to first call yourself an artist, or something concrete, know who you are and what you’re about, and then you can start creating stuff. No, no, no. You do things first, then you can worry about what it is, who you are. The important thing is the practice. The doing. The verb.
Mark Twain said that the secret to getting ahead is getting started. You don’t need anyone’s permission to lead a creative life. You don’t need anyone’s permission to change your mind, try things out, do something different, keep searching, finding, and searching all over again.
Wander. Wonder. Your curiosity will elicit your greatest capacities, your highest intelligence and creativity. This will enable you to offer the world something it needs. Use your natural light. Solve problems, make art, think deeply. Stay at home on New Year’s Eve if it is what makes you happy (I am surely going to stay). Read. Write. Run. Write a story.
We know from fairytales that there are different kinds of superpowers. Some can travel in time, others know magic formulas. It’s not about having them all but about using well the ones that you have been given. If you find a hole where you can slip to Wonderland then go, but make it your own adventure.
Virginia Woolf beautifully observed:
Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern… the whole world is a work of art… there is no Shakespeare… no Beethoven… no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.
You are a verb, so forget about the nouns and get to work.