Lately I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide what to write about next. The problem isn’t so much that I have so many ideas and can’t decide what to write about first. Rather, I keep getting stuck trying to think of a topic that is good enough.
What is meaningful enough? What is interesting enough? What is vulnerable enough without being too personal? What is hopeful enough without losing sight of reality?
The harder I try to find something good enough to write about, the more frustrated I feel—frantic that all my writing time is spent just trying to decide what to write about and that I won’t have anything to share this week.
Clearly just trying harder isn’t working. I need to change my approach. There are so many tools and exercises to help us shift our perspective, but so often when we’re right in the midst of the struggle we can’t see that we’re beating our heads against the same wall over and over.
Sometimes we need an external prompting to change directions—maybe a challenge from a friend or a shakeup in circumstances. This time for me it came in a book.
I recently started reading If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. In a chapter on the intrinsic rewards of creating, Ueland related a story about Vincent Van Gogh that caused me a to pause and change what I was looking for.
While writing a letter to his younger brother, Van Gogh noticed the twilight view outside his window. He included a drawing of the scene—explaining to his brother, “It is so beautiful I must show you how it looks.”
In that simple correspondence I found a question. In all my frantic brainstorming for writing topics, am I taking the time to notice what is so beautiful I must show it you?
Looking for the beautiful isn’t all rainbows and roses, although that loveliness is worth sharing for sure. It doesn’t mean pretending everything is wonderful when it’s not or only sharing things that are happy, happy, happy. There is so much beauty even, or maybe especially, in our hardest stories.
Looking for beauty is about noticing. Not just seeing what we expect to see—what we’ve always seen—but paying attention to see the fullness of what is there. There is beauty in the growth that comes out of struggle. It’s in the compassion that grows from heartache. It’s beautiful to try something even though we’re afraid.
Beauty isn’t about dividing everything into good and bad, right and wrong, and only acknowledging the pretty. It’s about gazing in wonder at the complexity and sitting with uncertainty long enough to learn. There is beauty in the longing to create.
It is beautiful to share pieces of ourselves that feel vulnerable but true. Not hiding behind the perfect image we’ve tried to build or pointing fingers at what someone else did to us, but using our own experiences as beacons of courage, resilience, and love to help light the way for others.
Sometimes I get so caught up in looking for what’s hard that I miss what is beautiful. It’s especially easy for me to miss the beauty this time of year. The beauty of nature seems dormant when the world is reduced to brown and gray. The beauty of the Christmas story and connecting with family gets lost in the stress of coordinating plans and shopping for gifts, in the exhaustion of travel and so much togetherness.
To be honest, I still don’t know exactly what I want to write about next and I still feel a little overwhelmed by the bustle and bleakness December brings, but I also have a sense of hope and possibility.
If I’m focused on what’s hard, that’s likely what I’ll find. But if I go about my days looking for what is beautiful, I just might be amazed at how much there is to see. I’m excited to watch for the beautiful and to share it with you.
So today I’m asking myself and I’m asking you—What is so beautiful you just have to show others what it looks like?