Maybe You’ve Done This Too

Let’s say you’re a teacher of some kind. Maybe a writer, a preacher, a manager, or some kind of leader. Somewhere in your life, you have a place where you express yourself, your ideas, and your perspective on a regular basis.

chatting at the sky

One morning, before you start your work, you peek at your email just to see what’s facing you later in the day, maybe you accidentally open Facebook and see that article from Huffington Post. You click just real quick and end up reading all three pages, even clicking on the links the author recommended.

The article is good and makes you think, as were the links the article led you to and the references those links mentioned.

By now it’s thirty minutes into your work day and you realize you’re exhausted a little bit. Usually you are able to keep your head about these things, but with the lack of sleep last night and the discouraging week you just had, you don’t have much in the way of defense. And you realize this article you read “real quick” represents the fact that everyone else has already said All The Things.

In fact, the entire world-wide web is filled with smart people saying things. Even this piece you’re working on now, the one about the people who have said all the things? Yeah, they’ve said that, too.

People had it so much easier before the internet! I think to myself (Notice I’m using I now. I’ll own this one).

And I sweep the gray cloud of blame for all of my creative woes onto the robotic back of the internet. I decide to take a walk because that seems like the opposite of computers.

The same as yesterday but somehow always new. (From Chatting at the Sky)

The road to the path is quiet this morning, the lamb’s ear in the neighbor’s yard is starting to spill right over the curb. I remember it from last year, growing out of the lawn that way. I always want to touch it but resist. I don’t know why.

I reach the path, the trees surrounding it in their full-leaf glory by this time of year. A green canopy lets only dappled light fall on the dirt at my feet, dirt that only months ago was covered dead leaves. Not today.

Green, the color of summertime. Blue, the sky on a clear morning of a late spring day. These are what we’ve come to expect. If it’s gray, we dress accordingly. Black, we take cover. Orange, well I don’t know. I’ve never seen an orange sky in the middle of the day.

The earth moves through time in a pattern we predict, of light or dark, rainy or dry, warm or cold or mild. We can’t say exactly what will turn up today, but we have an idea depending on where we are in time – the hour, the day, the month, the year.

Still, we marvel when we notice her beauty, wonder at her vastness, grieve over her brokenness, hush when she reveals the mystery of God.

As I walk beneath the green-tinted shadows of the trees with their massive branches and twisted trunks,  I take note of how unapologetic they are in their tree-ness. Trees have always been this way – a maple, a pine, an oak. They are not the same as one another, but they are the same as themselves. They repeat in their patterns, have their own kinds of bark, always, ever growing up and away from the ground because that’s what trees do.

I look around, curious over how all of this is the same as yesterday but somehow also always new.

With each step, I realize I’m doing that thing I do when I am afraid. I’m telling myself it’s all been said and done and read and seen before and so somehow I think this gives me a pass to give up because I can’t help it, you know. It’s the internet’s fault.

 chatting at the sky

Maybe instead of coming up with something new, I’m here to honor the truth of old, to hold the timeless realities close and live like they’re true for me. While we will always change, make progress and move forward, that will come more naturally as we hold on to what we know for sure. Maybe my desire to dazzle in my work is actually hindering my ability to do move forward in my life.

When you hold on to the wrong things, the wrong things hold on to you.

For as long as we’re here, we won’t stop repeating ourselves. We’ll watch a re-make of that movie we’ve already seen, read the book, and watch it again. We’ll listen to music by the artist and then we’ll pay green money to go hear them play that same music again, in person this time.

We’ll say I love you in the morning, and then again at night.

We’ll eat everyday, several times a day, then sleep tonight, tomorrow, and the day after that. Every other moment we’ll take a breath and never once roll our eyes to complain because we just did that three seconds ago.

Repetition is woven into the earth and every living thing. These repeating rhythms keep us alive in our bodies, our minds, and our spirits, too. I don’t have to be afraid to join the chorus of truth ringing out from the mouths of others. I can say what they’re saying, but I can do it as me. So can you.

Today, if you’re feeling the weight of creativity, refuse to manhandle your art like it’s some kind of ticket to someplace bigger, like if you could just get it right you might finally get what you want.

Instead, hold it lightly in your hand. Agree it’s probably been said. Be willing to say it again.

But first, take some time to stop saying things for a while in order to remember the value of the things in the first place. Maybe when we do that, we’ll repeat the words of Saint Benedict: Always we begin again. And we will.

For more reading on this topic, check out:


  1. says

    Emily, a passage from AMLW taught me that even if you are afraid of writing/saying something that has already been done so in the past, no one is going to do it as uniquely as you. We all have unique voices. Keep going, sweet girl. You are a beautiful writer and no one says things exactly quite like you!

  2. says

    Love this quote from Stephen King: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When you find something at which you have talent, you do that thing (what ever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes pop out of your head.”

    So grateful for your writing and that you’ve ‘said it again’. I notice it has your gentle and humble twist to it. You’ve made saying it again uniquely yours.

    You’ve placed a smile on my face and hope in my heart that my words and creativity matter… even if they’re a reiteration.

  3. says

    This is so freeing. “Maybe I’m here to give honor to the truths that have already been told” (liberty taken with the quotes…). Thank you!

  4. says

    Emily-this is a great reminder. My husband says to me frequently, “You don’t really write new things. You simply remind people what they already know. And people are so busy and distracted, they need extra reminding. Be that gift to them.” You are a gift with your reminding. Thank you for reminding me today. Much love!

  5. says

    There is a lot of repetition, it’s true but actually, Emily, I read you because you say very different things to most people – not just in the unique way you say them but actually they’re not what most people say!

  6. says

    this was so beautiful! And no you are not the only one who thinks there’s nothing new (to be said!) under the sun. : ) Thanks for the inspiration and the reminder today!

  7. says

    Beautifully said. I so identified with what you said–there are those times when I think everything I have to say has already been said better than I can say it. But sometimes it’s not about being new–it’s about adding my voice to the chorus.

  8. says

    It’s okay. It is all good.

    I admire your desire to reach so many with fresh new ideas, or to offer profound words which are life changing. We want to be that “It” girl. The one with all the answers that will lead others to live an empowered successful life.

    It’s okay. It is all good.

    The gospel story was printed four times in one book. Each author told of THEIR journey. Each version is still important.

    It is okay.
    It is all good.

  9. says

    Thank you for writing this! Beautifully said. There is truly nothing new under the sun. But this is also a comfort because this allows others to connect with our creative interpretations of the fact. “Oh, yes, I know of this, and therefore it speaks to me.” Would we be able to connect quite so well with something truly “new?”

  10. says

    “I’m here to honor the truth of old, to hold the timeless realities close and live like they’re true for me.”

    I just love this. If we don’t re-tell those truths, how will those coming up behind us know? I love how you point out that we say “I love you” in the morning and again at night. We always need to be reminded of the truth. The truth never really gets old.

    Thank you for the reminder that yes other, more brilliant writers have said what I am trying to say, but someone who is reading MY words may need to see or hear that truth spoken by someone they are familiar with.

    Great post!

  11. says

    So often I use website-perusing as an excuse to be aware of the world before being aware of myself and yet I never get around to digging deeper into my own soul. I love that quote “always we begin again” because my own journey is a thousand beginnings again. Thank goodness for grace. Thank you for sharing!

  12. says

    I didn’t see you there – peeking over my shoulder Emily. I think you have had a peek inside my tired head too.
    I am pausing for breath right now while I concentrate on my mystery book – but your wisdom and insight encourage me so much to keep writing the old/new things.
    Thank you.

  13. says

    Thank you Emily. Choosing not to read the other comments first, in case I’m saying the same thing.:) I needed this.
    “Funny” story, as I’m writing a book about letting go and being a recovering perfectionist, I ordered your book about letting go. I love Grace for the Good Girl but was afraid that what I was writing you may already have written. Then my sister’s words came flooding back with your post…we need to tell our story in our own voice, from our perspective…no one else can say it like we would. It is unique to us and our experiences, even if it has been said in a similar way. My daughter tells me she loves me all the time, but because it’s from the heart and an expression of our journey together, it carries a uniqueness that is set apart. Don’t stop sharing your journey Emily, we need it.:)

  14. says

    Beautifully and encouragingly said! (Oh, Huffington Post… I have that website blocked on my computer, not because the articles aren’t great sometimes, but because they are, and it does make feel like All The Things Have Been Said)

  15. says

    I’m so glad someone else feels this way! Whenever the fear of saying what’s already been said rises up I tell myself the old adage…
    “If only the best birds sang the forest would be silent.” I like your imagery of the same trees better though. Thanks for the encouragement today!

  16. says

    The trees did it for me.
    Trees don’t have identity crises; they simply Be. In all their glory, all their sameness, still unique.
    Stretching out limbs to exemplify what they were created to be.
    What a tremendous, freeing analogy. One I will remind myself of again and again.
    Thank you:)

  17. says

    Oh. My. Word. This slayed me. In the best possible way, Emily. You truly are the first person to have brought this reality to light for me. That it’s ok. That there is repetition all around us and we need it. Beauty. Thank you, love!

  18. says

    I needed this, the internet can make a person feel small and insignificant. And it can definitely be a discouraging thing to realize that the brilliant thought you just had was just summed up much more eloquently by someone else. But while it is true that there is nothing new under the sun, it’s also true that my voice is unique and will talk about the same things in a different way to reach a whole different group of people. And so then, we must press on and begin again.

  19. says

    Thank you for these beautiful and encouraging words! I love all things having to do with written expression like bookstores, libraries, writers’ conferences & blog communities, but I simultaneously feel inspired and discouraged in these places … I often wonder, “what else is there to be said?” Thank you for reminding me that there are many ways to express the new and honor the old at the same time.

  20. says

    I am always amazed at God’s ability to draw our attention to the very things we need to hear most. I struggle with thoughts of “it’s all been said” every day, and I constantly battle the urge to give up. But passion keeps me going, passion for writing, passion for God, and passion for the belief that he gave me this ability for a reason. There are billions of people, but each of us is unique is some beautiful way. So, too, are our voices and our gifts, and our stories. Beautiful post!

  21. says

    Solomon said “there’s nothing new under the sun”, but we moms know every child loves to hear a favorite story over and over and over again!
    The good stuff is always worth repeating.
    And everything is new to someone who hasn’t heard it before.
    The gospel was first shared over 2000 years ago and is the central message of the best selling book in history, but somebody needs to hear it freshly presented today.

    ‘It’s all been said before’ is just one of the lies discouragement tells us in an attempt to silence the good.
    We’re not falling for that old trick.

  22. says

    just acquired GRACEFUL & A MILLION LITTLE WAYS. Can’t hardly wait to crack them open – well i’ll admit, I already peeked. :)

    i read about you on Shannan Martin’s blog,

    I’ve been feeling the call to reach out to girls my daughter’s age; please keep us in your prayers as i may be venturing to start a girls’ group
    thanks for all that you’ve shared.

  23. em says

    Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun. Jeremiah said that God’s mercies were new every morning (Lam. 3) Solomon may have longed for something new and fresh and just couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.

    But God’s way is to take the same basic ingredients and keep the creative process going and going. Even the same thought can have a new perspective, day by day. The very fact that it HAS been said before lays the groundwork for us being able to hear it better when it is said again.

    It’s true that we’ve heard, and maybe even uttered, complaints that if we hear something over and over we won’t even hear it any more, or it won’t have meaning. But for those of us who are searching for meaning, we’re going to find it in the honest, heartfelt words of another. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

    • em says

      Oops, I didn’t realize that Kelly Grace had already mentioned what Solomon said. Well….I guess my repition is case in point!

  24. says

    i do this
    all. the. time.
    “Which each step, I realize I’m doing that thing I do when I am afraid”

    nailed it. it’s what keeps me quiet much of the time….sadly.

    “Instead, hold it lightly in your hand. Agree it’s probably been said. Be willing to say it again”

    ok, i sigh.
    and breathe deep
    and write anyway….

  25. Liz says

    Love this Emily, thank you.
    This is life. This is the way it is. This is beauty. This is truth.

  26. Lynne says

    Have you read “Steal like an Artist?” It’s a really quick read, as in can be read in one sitting, but really insightful. After reading this post, I think you might enjoy it!

  27. Heather says

    Thank you! This could not come at a more perfect time. Thanks for being a vessel of truth. I just need to gratefully do my art and quit trying to cash in my ticket!

  28. says

    The trees are unapologetic in their treeness. Oh, yes.

    And now you’ve got me thinking that I could be unapologetic in my childofGodness and in my womanness and in my wifeness and in my motherness and my bloggerness and Lord knows how many other ways. . . but especially in my Richellaness. The one thing that no one else can be.

    Oh, my friend. Thank you. Love you.

  29. says

    Be willing to say it again.
    Ouch. This one pinches a bit.
    When I start complaining tomorrow, just refer me back to this.

    Also: They are not the same as one another, but they are the same as themselves. THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU. Or at least one reason.

  30. says

    Oh i so needed to hear this!!! Thank you for inspiring me to keep going and use the gifts God has given me even if I feel like I have nothing new to offer….

  31. says

    here to honor the truth of old. yes!
    and though the same, always new.
    He gives us fresh eyes to see.
    and i love the body of Christ and how He uses others eyes to help us see too.

    i’m going to start thinking of us all as trees now-
    like the talking ones in wizard of oz. ;))

  32. Bridget says

    Emily, You’ve said versions of this same thing over and over again. Every time I need it. Every time it’s inspired and inspiring. Thank you.

  33. Patricia Kay Groom says

    I marvel and come to a new place within when I experience your writing, Emily…..perspectives with color….with love….with all-out-integrity.
    Grateful. Blessed.

  34. Aimee says

    Thank you.

    (Thinking that others say it all–and better–is one of my main reasons for not starting a blog. I’m feeling maybe a little convicted now.)

  35. says

    “I can say what they’re saying, but I can do it as me.” Emily, thank you thank you for this post. This is something I think about and around often, and after going to Haiti six weeks ago and feeling the need to sit silent, and now the words beginning to trickle out, this was much needed timing. It has all been said before, but not in my words.

  36. Kelli says

    Emily, I just want you to know how grateful I am that you continue to put your words & thoughts out there to share with me. Whether it has been said before or will be said again, the way you speak/write *today* matters. Thanks for sharing your gift with me. I am deeply appreciative. God has used you in my life greatly.

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  39. misha says

    Emily, This is so helpful to me because I have always struggled with seeing this repetition as a great inefficiency of God. To entrust to us truths that we constantly need repeating and relearning seems like such a bad system. Regularly having to reinvent the wheel (rewrite the book, retell the sermon) just because we are not able to retain all He’s taught past generations. But you’ve reframed it for me as the great entrusting of God, to us to carry the honour of repetition because the truths are so lovely. That really helps me. It feels more like being cherished than dropping the ball. It’s a beautiful gift to re-see this in a new way. Thank you.

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