I know someone who writes about being organised.
She shares tips about how to get your family organised, shares how she does the same, and talks people through the step-by-step processes of meal planning, school lunches and goal-setting.
I’d known of her work online for a while before I met her In Real Life, and I was shocked to be face to face with someone who was running late, flustered and – it has to be said – completely disorganised.
When we got chatting, she admitted as much. “I’m naturally really disorganised,” she told me, “and it’s such a struggle for me to do the things I write about.”
Stop the internet, I want to get off.
Did this mean she wasn’t being authentic (a big buzz word around online personas)? Had she created a version of herself online that wasn’t real? Was she flat-out lying?
She didn’t see it this way. “That’s why I write about how to be more organised,” she said; “I’m learning along with my readers.”
I went back and read her posts, and found that her lack of authenticity was all in my perception. Without the organised-coloured glasses on, I discovered that she’d actually been writing from the perspective of a disorganised sort all along; her words were dotted with confessions about trying to improve herself.
This realisation woke me up to the fact that, as writers, we’re drawn to the things we struggle with.
Readers are, too. (Read a book lately on the topic of something you already kick arse at? No, I thought not.)
I couldn’t write tips on how to be organised, because I just do it. Lists were probably the first things I drew when I learnt to hold a pencil all those years ago. I never once had to be told to clean my room. Being on time is just my nature. A Sunday session of organising my family for the week is this little black duck’s natural rhythm.
And I didn’t even know there was a process involved in meal planning, so I sure don’t have the ability to step people through it.
Me, a naturally organised sort, would be the one who’s being inauthentic to write about how to create a plan. It’s not something I need to use my precious brain space on.
Instead, like a magnet against the irresistible force of curiosity, I have a lot of questions about mental health, self-acceptance, that sort of thing. I’ve got external living down pat (mostly) (okay, not really), but the internal stuff is my daily struggle.
And so, I write about it. I write about inner voices and staying well, I write not about setting goals or working harder or eating better, but how to step back from those self-pressures, and I write it all from a willingness – a need – to learn.
Our struggles are far more interesting than the things we do with ease.
And universal inner battles are far more intriguing to me than whether you write a mean meal plan.