Welcome back to the Wickeds, Diane! Thanks for coming by and letting us know about your two latest projects!
There is no “I” in Personal Growth
by Diane Vallere
I experienced an unusual side effect to one of my more life-changing break-ups. I started to misspell words. More specifically, I started to misspell words with the letter “I.”
At first, I thought I was just writing too fast. With my ballpoint pen, I quickly inserted the “i” between letters and pretended it was one of those things (like when you spell “who” “hwo” or “people” “poeple.”) It wasn’t until I’d made the mistake multiple times that I realized what I was doing. If a picture is worth a thousand words, my misspelled words were leaving myself, my “I”, out of the picture. At a time when I should have been focused on myself, I was subconsciously doing the opposite.
I think more about my missing I’s than I think about the relationship, because I suspect there was more to the misspellings than met the—well, you know. If I’d started dropping my A’s, E’s, O’s or U’s, I might not have noticed. But after years of feeling like I’d back-burnered myself in the equations of work, play, and life, the idea of losing myself completely was terrifying.
It was somewhere around then that I started thinking about personal growth. It was also somewhere around then that I finished my first Samantha Kidd mystery. I don’t think it’s an accident that the character remains focused on trying to improve herself.
Samantha’s ninth adventure, UNION JACKED, has just come out, and both she and I remain interested in the idea of evolving. I originally wrote her a life coach in this book. It seemed like something she might do, and with all of her focus on getting her life together, it’s a logical step. But through revisions, I knew Samantha wouldn’t end up hiring an expert who guided her to the answers she sought. She’s a fall-down/get-back-up sort who learns her lesson only after failing first, and it didn’t suit her to happen upon a mentor who could help straighten her life out.
But you know what? Nobody owns the patent on falling down and getting back up. It’s what we do. It’s how we learn. It’s how we try new things, discover new passions, experience new joys, and make new memories. It’s something I talk about in my other book out this month, BONBONS FOR THE BRAIN: A Collection of Essays. If we sit around trying to be perfect, we’ll miss all the fun.
As anybody who creates—writers, actors, artists, musicians—knows, we can’t do our jobs without putting ourselves into our work. Most of us learn more about ourselves by going through the creative process, right? Imagine doing that while a part of you is in hiding. Not showing up. Eyes—I’s?—closed. But when we allow a relationship to happen between us and what we write or create, if we’re lucky, we can rediscover the part of us that’s scared or hiding.
Within months of the aforementioned break-up, my I’s returned on their own and have been with me ever since. Even better, I haven’t noticed the loss of any other letters—except occasionally my Ps and Qs!
What about you? Has your handwriting—or any other subconscious activity—given you a clue about your mental state?
After two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder. She is a national bestselling author and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.
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Congratulations on the ninth book, Diane. And good for you for collecting essays – zero calories, of course. ;^) Such an interesting story about dropping that letter and then figuring out what it meant. The only thing I know about my handwriting these days is that I don’t use it very much, so it’s a lot sloppier when I do!
Thanks, Edith! Funny about handwriting, isn’t it? I’ve watched mine change through good and bad times–get big and loopy or small and messy. Yet it’s always mine! As for sloppy: it’s good for keeping people from reading your notes! 🙂
Good to see you here, Diane! My life’s been definitely stressful for the past year, so I cut myself some slack when I forget or misplace things. Yesterday I hit a new high: I was filling out an online form and was asked for my home phone number. I first put in the one from my prior home in another state–where I haven’t lived for over fifteen years. If I’d been asked, I would have said I didn’t remember it. (And when I misspell words while writing, I blame the keyboard.)
Sheila–funny how the mind stores that info! (and those darn keyboards! It’s like they move the letters!)
Thanks, Sheila! Don’t you love how the brain stores information? And those darn keyboards…sometimes I think the keys move around when I’m not looking!
My handwriting is like a barometer – if I can read it, then all is well with my world – if it’s scratchy and scribbly – change is on the way, and if it’s downright illegible – well, it’s not a good day! Fascinating about your I’s and glad you have yourself back.
Love the cover (all your covers) and looking forward to a great read.
Thanks, Kait! Always good to know when change is on the way!
After years of having really bad handwriting, I realized part of the issue is I was rushing. And yes, rushing in so many parts of life, not only my handwriting, when I really needed to slow down. So now I make a conscious effort to write slowly – and live a little slower, too.
Liz, so important to recognize those things, right? (For me, it was falling down. Trying to rush ahead in life!)
Yep. Of course sometimes you have to slow down enough to notice and figure it out!
This is fascinating, Diane! For me a good indication of my mental state is whether or not I am accomplishing the things I plan to do in a day. If I am consistently missing my own daily top three goals I know there is something going really wrong in my world. Often it is a case of feeling overwhelmed and a bit paralyzed. So, then the handwriting comes into play. I pull out a sheet of paper and a favorite pen and do a brain dump. I write everything slowly and deliberately and make sure to form the letters in a way that pleases me. By the time I am done I feel like I have a handle on what all is pressing in on me and I am usually back on track.
Jessie, I love this! I love that you slow down and concentrate on your handwriting as a way to combat overwhelm. Genius! (stealing for myself now 🙂
That is so bizarre, Diane! Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I only write in longhand when writing to my last penpal because it’s so difficult to focus long enough to write out all the letters. When I’m writing notes to myself, I leave out the vowels and work in some symbols like the Greek theta for “the”, a shorthand I developed for taking lecture notes in law school.
Keenan, I know! It took me a bit to realize that all of my misspelled words were missing the I, and then I got a little freaked out! Shorthand is a whole other thing and I find it–in all versions–fascinating!
I’ve never considered what my misspellings say about me. Or even if I have consistent misspellings.
Well, there is the fact that I can’t remember the same words, but I think that is more about just not being a good speller period.
I suspect you’re right!
I love this post about the “I’s” and welcome to Del Val Sisters in Crime.
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