Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be

That’s me in the first row of Miss Giesel’s Grade 3-4 at Lewton Elementary School, Lansing Michigan, April 6th, 1962. I had no ideas about who I might become at that age, but I knew I didn’t like white socks and I hated my bangs. I remember being in love with a couple of guys in my class. Hey, there were some cute guys in that class! And I remember drawing and painting up a storm and reading above grade level. So, I was busily “becoming”…I just didn’t know what.

A friend gave me an article from Oprah’s “O” magazine the other day. The writer who contributed the piece is one of my favorites. Anne Lamott writes that, “We begin to find ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be …So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t?”

The take-away piece of the article for me, as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, was this paragraph: “When I was a young writer, I was talking to an old painter one day about how he came to paint his canvases. He said that he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. So he’d make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind, and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he’d imagined, he’d paint it over with white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn’t, he was one step closer to finding out what it was.”

Oh yes, yes, yes…this is the way it works for me! I woke up at 5:30 the other morning to let our old dog out and once back in bed, a clear image of an old man and a child came to me. They were walking and the child was asking her grandfather, “Grandpa, what is life?” the first few lines of a new book came to me and I thought, drifting back to sleep, I need to remember this so I can write it down when I wake up, which snapped me awake. I shuffled downstairs and spent two hours trying to capture what was on the canvas of my mind. I’ve spent the past week doing rough pencil drawings for a storyboard of this new picture book figuring out what the drawings weren’t and coming closer to finding out what they were.

Read the full article in “O”:

One thought on “Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be

  1. I kept thinking about this post which I first read last year. Poetry follows the same process, figuring out what the poem isn’t to figure out what it is. Led a poetry workshop for teachers yesterday about “wonder.” Wondering allows us to be ourselves. Am preparing for a year or more of wondering and wandering and I am grateful! Thank you for sharing your creative process.

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