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I’m Not Unique And Neither Are You! Except, Of Course When We Are

we're all the same and we're all differentI love the idea that I’m somehow unique. Maybe it’s because I have bought into the idea of rugged individualism – Anne as a cowboy? Well, maybe not.

In some ways I am special and in some ways I am not. Obviously no one looks quite like me and no one has had exactly my experiences or done precisely the things I’ve done, etc. etc. etc. All that’s true for you too.

And I suppose no one writes just the way I do – or the way you do either.

But as much as I like the idea that I’m a unique individual I also see that in many ways there’s not a whit’s worth of difference between you and me.

This occurred to me when someone in comments said they were’ glad to discover they were not alone in needing to deal with fears.


I didn’t write that article, but I often bust myself about my fears, insecurities, confusions and mistakes. Every time I do some honest confessional writing people write to tell me that they are delighted to discover they aren’t alone. 

I know that feeling too. When I realize others are thinking or feeling the way I am it’s sort of a relief. Apparently  humans aren’t really built to be or feel different from their fellows.

It seems to me we really are more alike than we are different and I think that’s a thought worth thinking about and staying in touch with, particularly as we write. It’s that common humanity that we all share that let’s us write for others and be understood.

Hemingway was able to express emotions in his tight writing only because he experienced the same sorts of feelings that others recognized. Amy Tam speaks to us in her unique way about our common, human experience.

Of course, before I can write about something I’ve felt and about my experience with it I have to recognize what I’m feeling, what I’m experiencing. Once I have that recognition the next step is to see that whatever it is, from a lost love to a death in the family, it’s not so very different from other’s experience.


It’s out of that place that is some sort of balanced understanding of what Thich Nhat Hanhcalls interbeing that some of my best writing flows. I’ll bet it’s there that some of your best writing comes from too.

Some might call that my writing voice, which is probably as good a name as any.

The trick, if there is any, is to dare to let that expression flow.

So, how are you unique and how are you the same as others?

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Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by andrea-prieto


{ 5 comments… add one }
  • I love this post, Anne… it’s probably my fave so far. That’s an interesting point that we all think we’re unique, but it’s the things we have in common that we relate to in the writing of others (or even just in others, I think).

    I try not to think about my own uniqueness because I recognize that (especially when I was younger), it turns into ego, false pride and … bad writing. In fact, when I’m writing I can’t think about myself at all or it ruins everything.

    What is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls ‘inter-being?’ That sounds interesting. Please summarize in 30 words or less! Just kidding… it’s probably a little tough to explain.

    • Greg, the short form of interbeing, and he runs the two words together, is that everything is connected including us… there’s no separation. Science says that too… yet most humans at least feel separate from each other and from nature.

  • We, as writers, are straddling a line: writing from a very individual point of view but hoping that readers will relate to our experiences in a universal way. Even when we are suburb-bound in America, we read about someone helping children not starve in a small village in Africa and relate to that experience in a very specific way. I love this about writing!
    Anne Woodman recently posted..Baking Bonds & Builds a Better BoyMy Profile

  • I’d like to think we’re more alike than different. Having said that, I also know that I write from a place of just being “me” the me no other writer can lay claim…would that be my unique voice? Although it’s good to note that we are not alone in our fear factors.

    Clara.
    Clara Freeman recently posted..It’s Amore…Happy Valentine’s Day From Clara54!My Profile

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