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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?


Diane Vallere

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. Sign up for Diane’s The Weekly Diva Newsletter and get girl talk, book talk, and life talk!

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