At The Edge

I've made an observation in my own life recently. An illumination of something that I'm pretty sure has always been there but that I haven't thought much about or been able to verbalize till now.

My writing and reading are at the edge of my personal growth.

I had considered turning that last statement into a more generalized and punchier - writing and reading are at the edge of personal growth - but I don't want to be make sweeping generalizations about other's people's lives. So I'll stick with what I know to be true for me.

What do I mean by writing and reading at the edge of my personal growth?

Well, as I've considered my years of journaling, publishing this blog, and even my university writing assignments, there's been definite shifts (some subtle, others not), turns and direction changes to my writing. Personal growth is not static and neither is our creative work. Obviously. The papers I wrote for university courses are not the blogs I write today. And thank goodness!

I see the same pattern in my reading. Books I was really into five years ago - green and "simple" living, vegan cooking, organic gardening, etc. - I'm not interested in reading any more. This is not to say I'm not interested in those topics. Many ideas have because so much a part of who I am, that I don't need to read about them anymore to learn those skills or be inspired along that path. And so I've observed that my reading, like writing, reflects the particular stage of life I'm at. Again, obvious.

Why does it matter to me to recognize that my writing and reading is at the edge of my personal growth?

I think it matters for a few reasons.

Reason One: Our personal growth edges are our own and so often we compare our writing and reading with our peers thinking that's where our edge should be also. Not so.

We can certainly be inspired by other people's words and see what books are on their shelves (join me at Goodreads if you want) but lets have the courage to walk our own path.

I see so much "trending" in my online writing world, much more so than my real life community relationships. In my online world so many women write about what other people are writing about. Perhaps they are inspired, maybe they are hoping to be "successful" like their favorite blogger. Guilty as charged. Blech.

Honestly, I'm just tired of this scene. I do realize there is nothing new under the sun but really people - let's live (and read and write) with some originality and imagination. Again, guilty as charged.

One of my ongoing life goals is to be comfortable at my own edge. An edge that has taken a decidedly different direction since our big move. An edge that continues to shift as my children grow and I change as a mother and creative individual and as my husband and I follow our life dreams.

Reason Two: If our own writing and reading lies at the edge of our personal growth then the same is true for our children. Said more directly - our children's writing and reading is at the edge of their personal growth.

What are the implications of this? For one, your children are not going to want to write about things that have no interest to them, that don't reflect who they are and where they are. If you are struggling with reluctant writers, re-read that last sentence.

Likewise, they are not going to read at the edge of someone else's growth, but at the edge of their own. This relates both to reading ability and content.

My youngest is nine. Her reading interests and ability are vastly different than her brother's were at nine or her sister's reading interests at nine. I don't have a set reading curriculum for my children, i.e.: by the time they are twelve they will have all read or been exposed to classics a, b, & c. This isn't to say I don't guide and give direction to their learning, I absolutely do and we all have shared many wonderful books together. But the heart of their reading - the books they are uniquely and inherently attracted to - are as individual as they are. Just as it is for Damien and I (we read completely different kinds of books).

Reason Three: When you recognize that your writing and reading are at the edge of your personal growth you can better accept where you used to be (the embarrassment writers feel about their earlier work) and let go of things - books, ideas, routines - that no longer serve you.

I am not one of those writers who can keep writing about the same things over and over again, except those things that are at my very core that don't change. But even there - the expression of my core values changes over time.

My writing changes as I change. FIMBY changes as I change. I have a bad habit of starting blog "series" and not finishing, not because I'm flighty or or undisciplined but because my interests and personal growth are moving in different directions. To be a happy writer, a fulfilled writer - I need to write at my edge. (Don't worry I'm finishing my Elementary Homeschool Curriculum Series even though it's not at my edge.)

The same goes for reading. I like to read at my edge and this means letting go of books that aren't where I'm at.

I have parted with many books during the course of our move. They were wonderful books, I read them, I learned from them, they helped me grow immensely. They served their purpose. I no longer need to own, keep and and maintain them (move, store, dust, find space, etc.). The same is true for children's book and resources we no longer need.

An exception to this is books (fiction and non-fiction) that I think the kids might find useful in their future studies and excellent reference materials. I keep these but even then you can get carried away keeping "just in case".

Writing this has made me ask, "where is my current edge?"

I think my edge is at raising and educating a young adult, some of which is difficult to write about because I'm dealing with a near adult and I am very respectful of her feelings about what I share publicly. My edge is at living in a different culture and learning a second language. It's at sharing work, home, love and life with my family 24/7. It's at opening myself up to greater outdoor adventures. It's being an entrepreneur together with my husband. It's at becoming a better writer. It's at growing as a coach and family mentor. It's at educating late elementary and middle schoolers. It's loving and accepting my beauty, foibles, quirks and genius.

My edge is not at figuring out how to make soap (I still make soap, but it's kind of like vegan cooking - I've figured it out, it's not my growth edge), growing an organic backyard garden, or sewing our own clothes (or craftiness in general).

My edge definitely affects my writing, it has to, if my writing is going to be authentic and wholehearted - a reflection of who I really am. And I'm not sure exactly what this means for FIMBY or what people have come to expect from this blog. But that's not really my concern now is it? My concern is to live at my edge and share that story.

Where is your edge? Is your edge reflected in your craft and in your reading?

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Aimee

    Aimee on Sept. 11, 2012, 1:12 p.m.

    totally resonates with me. i haven't blogged in a while because of this...needing to know who I am right now and not forcing myself to stay with the mindsets/focuses of another season of my life. I am not crafting right now or focused on green living or even relaxed homeschooling...we are actually in a place of more structure right now, greater daily input from me, gardening, raising chickens, and figuring out ways to serve in our community. I love this thought of "living at my edge" and will use this post for further personal reflection this week.

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    • renee

      renee on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:59 p.m.

      I think it's a really great thing to recognize where you're at and go with it. I liked reading your recent post also. 

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  • Kate

    Kate on Sept. 11, 2012, 1:36 p.m.

    My own experiences with my edge of personal growth is something like a spiral. I come back to an edge, as you call them, that I had once lived at and moved on from, only to have myself further refined. Perhaps becoming more advanced in a skill, finding myself teaching, or noticing an err in my thinking about a topic. I enjoy reading your blog and find inspiration to continue following my own interests. Thank you!

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    • renee

      renee on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:52 p.m.

      Kate, Yes the spiral! I get that metaphor also. I talked about the iterative process Damien and I go through in our decision making and it is very much like this, 'round and around'. 

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  • Laura Smith

    Laura Smith on Sept. 11, 2012, 2:13 p.m.

    Important realization! It's not always about the finishing. My husband and daughter have taught me that. (I am a BIG finisher.) There's lots to be learned from the starting. Sometimes everything can be learned through the starting and there is no need for finishing. We punish ourselves for so many unnecessary things! There is a balance for everyone. Are you (meaning the collective "you") focusing your growth right now on self-discipline? Perhaps finishing is an important lesson. Are you exploring now? Then starting a million things and seeing what sticks could be the right path. The hardest part is listening to the voice within yourself. It can be so hard to hear in our culture. Plus it often tells us to go against the grain. I applaud you for listening - and for sharing your experience. Looking forward to where it leads!

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    • renee

      renee on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:47 p.m.

      What a great point you raise Laura. Thank you! This is so true. I am a finisher but I am learning to let go of things of patterns, thoughts, actions, routines etc. that no longer work for me. I think I'm in a big shift right now - with our children's ages and my own growth where I have to "try new ideas on" to see how they fit. And start new things and see where they go. 

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  • Fiona

    Fiona on Sept. 11, 2012, 2:23 p.m.

    Really thought-provoking post. Something clicked for me here, when you mentioned crafting. I'm always trying to write blog posts about crafts but often they feel forced and I feel unmotivated. I think, though I enjoy those things, that's not where my edge is. I'm new here, having come from christina rosalie's site (http://www.christinarosalie.com/blog/), and really enjoying myself ;)

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  • Beth Wagenius

    Beth Wagenius on Sept. 11, 2012, 3:58 p.m.

    I'm not sure if I already posted a comment or not but it's not showing up so I assume I didn't.... I enjoy your writing very much and can agree that my writing and reading are also on the edge of my personal growth. Very good way to put it. I also think that the writing I feel the most inspired by is written in this manner. Yes, we do need writers that write from a purely practical point of view. It's just that you can tell when a person is writing from "their heart" and when they are writing from "their head". If that makes sense.

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  • kyndale

    kyndale on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:13 p.m.

    Well....I hope still read my blog from time to time Renee! We're all growing and evolving as people and it's natural for interests to change. I do feel a shift in you and I've attributed it to your move back to Canada. It must have been extremely freeing for you. xo Kyndale

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    • renee

      renee on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:43 p.m.

      I still read crafty, homeschool blogs (smile). I love those things! And yes, the move has brought a lot of personal shifting and freedom to our lives that we didn't have before. 

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  • Kika

    Kika on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:29 p.m.

    I think that was a big struggle with continuing (or not) my blog; I realized that I was never going to be happy posting about our homeschool days, or crafts, or the food we are eating... these things are important to me for sure and several years ago I would have been far more excited showing what we were up to in these areas. No, the things I really wanted to write about were harder to articulate and I'm not sure easily appreciated by others - they were ideas I was/am wrestling with, hard things in society that people tend to not want to discuss, etc. I guess those things at the edge of my personal growth, as you put it.

    In terms of reading, I usually devour books on a topic for months then I'm done and on to a new topic of current interest. Not that I'll have learned all there is to know, of course, but all that I needed to know for that season. Sometimes I return years later to the same topic to glean more. While I love gleaning titles/book ideas from online writers I have no problem quitting a book part way through realizing it does not speak to me, no matter how many others raved about it.

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    • renee

      renee on Sept. 11, 2012, 5:44 p.m.

      Kika, me too. I have no problem quitting a book that isn't "doing it for me". Letting go of projects is harder though...

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  • rebecca

    rebecca on Sept. 11, 2012, 10:06 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this profound reflection/observation. I've read this post so many times today and I forwarded it to several close friends. Great stuff to think about!

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  • Rachael

    Rachael on Sept. 12, 2012, 1:41 a.m.

    I like this idea. I think I'm in different places with my writing and reading right now. I've just had a breakthrough in how I think about myself as a writer; I've gone from thinking that much of my paid work (I'm a technical writer of sorts) doesn't "count" to thinking that I should own it and have fun with it by thinking about it in terms of craft — which is how I think about all of my other writing — journaling, blogging, poetry. As for reading — well, what does it mean that I have a hard time finishing anything that I'm reading? That is, what does it mean, other than that I have two small children? Something's going on there that I should look at. Thank you.

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  • Carolyn

    Carolyn on Sept. 12, 2012, 2:44 a.m.

    Yeah, I am kinda tired of blogs with the same beautiful images rehashed. I am not denying the endcap grocery store target item appeal). Just kinda speaking from my "personal edge"' and appreciate when others speak from theirs, thanks keep it up!

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  • Michelle @ The Parent Vortex

    Michelle @ The Parent Vortex on Sept. 12, 2012, 4:09 a.m.

    This post really resonates with me too. Sometimes I write and read about something that is right on the edge of my learning and other times I write to sum up what I know or have learned in a certain phase that is almost past. When I'm really focused on something that can be all I think/write/read about for days or weeks on end.

    I've really enjoyed the shift in your writing and perspective since you moved to Quebec...

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  • Karen

    Karen on Sept. 12, 2012, 8:46 p.m.

    There wasn't one comment here when I read your post first thing this morning - quite different now when I get back to adding my thanks for your thoughts, which are as timely for me as some of your other readers. It's comforting - a relief, really - to feel permitted to let "things" go as growth and change flows along in my life. A challenge for me is to get over the thinking that I should embrace fewer things so I won't feel guilty about those things I have to let go unfinished - an impossible idea really, because of the wonder, curiosity and unknowns of life and of the on-going growth of the person I am, a process I never want to squelch. Whoa - that was a very long sentence and this is is getting too philosophical here. Thanks for helping me probe a bit today - love how you always sharpen me. xo, Mom

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  • Emily

    Emily on Sept. 12, 2012, 11:14 p.m.

    Renee this post is completely and totally why i come here to Fimby.To check you out embracing the edge.Love it.

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  • Johanna Hanson

    Johanna Hanson on Sept. 12, 2012, 11:35 p.m.

    Renee, This is exactly why I love reading you. You make me think. As a young mom (and new blogger) this was so incredibly helpful to me. I'm writing about what I'm learning right now. I have wondered about what I would do when I move onto something else. But I think I am realizing I don't need to worry about that. In just the same way I'll stick around and enjoy your "edge" even if it isn't the exact same things I am doing, others will enjoy mine. In the end, I think we just enjoy following each others journeys and learning from one another along the way.

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  • Tonya

    Tonya on Sept. 13, 2012, 8:02 p.m.

    Renee, I am really on at the edge myself right now - contemplating closing the blog even - it isn't quite reflective of who I am - and I really want it to be - I am just such a lousy writer.... Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

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  • Rachel Wolf

    Rachel Wolf on Sept. 15, 2012, 12:30 p.m.

    This is lovely, Renee. I appreciate it on many levels. My edge shifts as well, and I have that same habit of beginning and abandoning post series that were well intended but fizzled in my heart before their completion. (Or: "Why I will never host another book club.")

    For me, my edge changes but a cord keeps surfacing - that is to embrace my gifts and accept my weaknesses. Dealing with criticism is toxic for me. Debilitating and unraveling. It has been since I was a small child. and I suspect I blog so that I can face this demon and learn a way to cope. 40 years is enough time to get warmed up for this one.

    Thank you for sharing your edge with us.

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  • Tanya

    Tanya on Oct. 1, 2012, 1:09 a.m.

    Yes! I'm a little behind in reading your blog, but this post speaks volumes! I've always thought about my reading this way. There are a few themes that return, but never quite the same way, so the same types of books don't satisfy me after a while. But I never thought about this as part of my writing. One of my struggles with blogging is trying to find my one voice. I never considered that my voice will change and evolve depending on where I am and what is happening around me. And that a changing voice is okay. Thank you, thank you for this post!

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  • Jess

    Jess on Nov. 13, 2012, 3:46 a.m.

    I cannot tell you how deeply this post has resonated within. So much so that "the edge" has been the only phrase when speaking with others when sharing this changing of tides within my life. Thank you. There is power in your words and your ability to so beautifully bring to the surface what is often occurring so deeply inside.

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