Have you thought about an idea so long it became apart of you? Even if you tried to escape it, you couldn’t run fast enough. And even when you procrastinated on it or filled your life up with so many other things that took your attention off of the idea, it still sat there, waiting for you you in those quiet moments right before you went to sleep?
Have you ever had one of those…or is it just me?
Last time I wrote about my “now what?!” moment—you know that time when you’ve taken the leap and jumped headlong into a life-changing choice. At first, you’re exhilarated and bolstered by the adrenaline. But then doubt sets in and you begin to second-guess your decision. You begin to doubt your abilities, and you begin to think you made a HUGE mistake.
Yup…I was there. And if I’m honest with myself, I revisit that place often, but as Oprah said on Lifeclass, “Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway“—so that’s what I’m doing.
For as long as I have been writing, I have been thinking, dreaming, and wanting to write a book. For a writer, having the stamina, focus, and determination to complete a whole book is the ultimate goal.
Although I had to finish a manuscript when I was in grad school to get my MFA, it was in poetry…which, if I’m being honest (again), I chose because it came fairly easy to me (a pattern in my life). But deep down, I always wanted to write a novel or other work of prose.
Over the years I’ve started and stopped multiple stories. I’ve told myself I don’t have the focus, the attention span, or a good enough idea to finish an entire book. Basically, I psyched myself out before I really got started (sound familiar?). But recently…that idea, that gnawing feeling to put pen to paper and write a book has come back again, and this time I won’t be ignoring it.
Telling myself that I’m going to write a book is scary. Admitting what you really want and telling yourself you’re going to try to accomplish it is a completely terrifying proposition.
In 2010 I wrote a list of things I wanted to accomplish. Hiking was one. Last Sunday, I reached my goal!
As with any new or different experience, self-doubt starts to creep in.
Can I do it?
What if I suck?
What if no one likes my work?
What if I can’t get it published?
What is nobody buys it?
What if I fail?
I’m sure you’re familiar with these questions. Anyone who has ever decided to do something, anything of value knows these questions well. But the key is to just push past them and get to work.
When it comes to writing, I’m my toughest critic. I constantly edit myself, erasing whole passages before I’ve given them a chance. I’ve often gotten stuck on a sentence, a thought, a page—paralyzed by the fear of sounding like a talentless hack. But as Anne Lamott pointed out in her book Bird by Bird:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
Although the thought of actually writing a book completely unnerves me, I decided to research the process instead of shooting down my idea before I even allow it a little space to breathe and grow.
Along with revisiting Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I picked up Thinking Like Your Editor which will help me navigate the proposal-writing process. I’ve also reached out to friends who have already done what I’m planning to do for their advice. So progress is being made and it feels…good (and terrifying, and nerve-wracking, but definitely really good).
But how about you?
Once you’ve identified your goals (and if you haven’t…get some already!), did you start taking steps to get you there or are you still stuck in fear?
Set the goal and believe you can do it: When I heard Oprah say, “We become what we believe,” I had an ah-ha moment. I’ve been believing the wrong ish about myself. Time to rewrite the script.
Plot your steps: Once you have your goal, go about finding out what it’ll really take for you to reach it and make a plan to do so.
Follow-through: Toughest part of the process—the action. Yes, we know what we want and we may even know how to get it, but will we actually get started? What’s holding you back?
Be accountable: If no one knows you’re working toward a goal, it’s easy to allow yourself to slack off. Tell the right people (those who will be dream supporters, not dream slayers), and let them know you want them help you keep your eyes on the prize (can you help me stay focused, y’all?).
What do you want to accomplish folks? I want to help you reach your goals any and every way that I can, and in the process, I know I will reach mine.
Let’s support each other! Drop a comment letting me know what you want to accomplish and how we (yes, we) can help.