In Other’s Words

The material for this book was collected from nature at great personal risk by the author. (Helen Rowland)

I have a hobby. I collect quotes. Being a veracious reader, I have a tendency to underline meaningful statements in the books that I read. There was a time, when I would have been horrified at the thought of doing such a thing. The nuns who taught at the parochial school I attended, although not actually coming out and defining such sacrilege as mortal sin, suggested it with stern faces and pointing fingers, repeated admonishments, and threats of bodily harm should we get caught in such an activity. It took a great deal of inner courage, as an adult, to finally realize that the books in my hands were mine to do with as I wished. That those black-robed women were no longer present, but only a left over aspect of my childhood. And believe me, once I picked up a pen and actually drew a line beneath something I didn’t want to forget, I didn’t regret it, or the absolute delight I found in breaking that fundamental rule of grade school experience.

I have always thought, since finding the above quote, that it should be permanently impressed on the first page of all journals. Mainly because it is true, but also because it is funny and tickles me no end.  Although I have firmly, and clearly, stated that definitions, especially about ones own existence, should come directly from the individual, we all need others to point us in certain directions, give us examples, lessons from their wealth of experience, and so forth. We are not alone and we do not know it all. Not even our own stories. In a very real sense, we are the authors of our own lives. (Mandy Aftel)

There are countless advantages in writing our own stories. People who keep journals have life twice. (Jassamyn West) The very real fact is that when we write it down, we live it again, see it in new ways, and learn from it, more than we would otherwise. We open ourselves up to different choices and opportunities, and give ourselves the possibility of healing. As I hope you will see, they (stories) are tangible ways to soften old scar tissue, balm old wounds, and restore old skills in a down-to-earth manner. (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

We, in essence, become our own creators, choosing with reflection, what we desire, what is comfortable to us, what seems the best thing for us to do. We define those things in our own words. To experience the emotions of life is to live! To express the life of emotions is to make art. ( Jane Heape) The art that we so create is unique and individual, as well as priceless. Furthermore, we can never know when another human being may need to hear that very expression, or see that particular color and texture of experience.

Joseph Campbell wrote: The world is full of people who have stopped listening to themselves or have listened only to their neighbors to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are that they should be living for. When we sit to write on a regular basis we are seeking to know our own story: where we came from, where we are going, and what we are becoming. What are the values we have set for ourselves and upon our own experience? When we write, we begin the process of sorting out this from that. The quest for a story is the quest for a life. ( Jill Johnston) If we are to seek after our own lives, it must begin with our own story. All of those bits and pieces of the puzzle we have collected thus far.

Your first job is to get your own story straight. (Natalie Goldberg) We do that by writing them down, not necessarily in chronological order, but in the very real bits and pieces that occur to us on any given day. Examining those pieces, pulling out clues from the very words we choose to write them.

There is nothing wrong, and much wisdom, in using someone else’s words (especially when that someone else has so obviously been there before us), as a launching pad, a starting point, mile markers, or even as the beginning of discussion or argument. Someone else’s words may tweak our thoughts in a certain direction that we might not have imagined before reading them. They can easily be the trigger for memories, flashbacks to past experience, or a new way to see exactly where we have been. We need to claim our own stories, possess them and begin them with a capitol I. You need only to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. (Florida Scott-Maxwell)

In other words, do you want to belong to you, or forever to someone else? Do you know what you are giving away when you give yourself to another? If you don’t know, how can you expect that other individual to do so? Or, heaven forbid, demand that they do so? If what it takes is the writing of words on a daily basis, can you afford not to write them? Sigmund Freud wrote that Words were originally magic and have retained much of their ancient magical power. Personally, I would go one step further, at great risk, to say, Our own words may be the only Magic we truly need. Other’s words can be important, but not as important as those we choose to own. (Elizabeth Crawford)


About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here:
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4 Responses to In Other’s Words

  1. Pingback: The Gold Mine | 1sojournal

  2. Misky says:

    This is a wonderful piece, Elizabeth, and I found myself gripped to your (and others’) words right to end.

    So glad to hear that Misky. I’m hoping this will be both entertaining and supportive,



  3. margo roby says:

    Elizabeth, your conclusion [the paragraph] and the quote I will take away [last sentence] is something to hug to oneself. Thank you for this essay.


    And thank you Margo for reading it. Owning our own words may be one of the hardest tasks for that individual who chooses to persue writing on any level, whether it is for private purposes, or aimed at public consumption. Even though I have been writing for most of my life, here on my blogs, I still have a moment of hesitation before clicking on that publish button, because it means taking responsibility for and owning these words I am using. But, there is also the very real fact that along with that sense of obligation is another feeling, that one of partaking in Magic.



  4. What’s up, I read your blogs regularly. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!


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