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  • Writer's pictureAbby Maslin


Dear Abby,

I want to talk about self-centeredness for a minute – that ugly word we throw around to describe irrationally pretty people or that dude in line at Starbucks who managed to snag the very last old fashioned donut. It’s a word we love to apply to other people, but one that, unfortunately, describes us all.

To begin with, let’s talk about that little book writing secret you and I know too well: it’s a completely self-centered process. From parking yourself alone in a chair, to chewing over every thought in your brain, to sending the kids you hardly see off to grandma’s for an afternoon of uninterrupted work, it’s utterly, stupidly isolating. You become so tangled up in your own neuroses and the grandiose sense of importance you’ve imbued into your work that your perspective begins to fog. And suddenly your mind is that cloudy bathroom mirror after a hot shower: what do I want to say here? Why am I even doing this?

And then there’s memoir writing. Ha. Of all forms of writing, memoir writing is perhaps the most self-centered process. Hours and hours of dissecting your own psychology, ruminating over your own memories, figuring out how to represent yourself on paper in a way that is true but also meets the needs of your narrative. It is ME TIME to the extreme. And the truth is that it makes for many moments of depression along the way.

Today was one of those book writing related breakdowns where absolutely nothing felt right and nothing was working. Berating messages, all deriving from the theme YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, attacked from every angle, insistent that you expose myself for the fraud that you are and then return to the small life you deserve to live.

Rationally speaking, you should be over this headspace garbage. After 4 years of writing, rewriting, throwing away, and starting over, you are at the finish line. In two weeks you’ll turn this sucker in and give someone else the chance to tear it apart. You should be CELEBRATING, goddammit.

Instead you lost your grip.

But kudos on doing the thing everyone should do in these irrational moments of impotence and self-pity. When it began to overwhelm you, you sat down, shut up, and started breathing. Within minutes, Sanity returned and here’s what she said:

You are not the things you make in this world. Those things are gifts, intended to be created and then released. Never to be mistaken with your identity.

You’re the only one who can do the things you’re supposed to do. (An obvious but much needed reminder.)

Get over yourself already, sweetheart. You and your book are but a speck of sand in the universe. Bid it farewell and then get back to work helping people. We’re done here.

The thing about mild depression is that so often the culprit is ME ME ME. Our constant fixations on what we have/don’t have, what the world thinks of us, and why we’re not meeting our own self-imposed expectations can be crippling. But know this much to be true: the moment we release ourselves from the notion that we are somehow more special, more destined, more important than anyone else on this great planet, we actually become free.

This world does not need us to naval gaze into oblivion. It needs us to be the resilient little specks of sand we are and get back to work. We’re done here, sweetheart.

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