I just received the most encouraging blog email from Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind Series and dozens of other books. The email asked, “when can you call yourself a writer?” The long and short answer is, “when you actually write!” And so today is the day that I launch this blog and start calling myself a writer. No longer will I only talk about writing; I am strutting out into the virtual world to actually do the thing!
There are really a lot of great quotes out there about writing, but this one by Louis L’Amour spoke to me the loudest. It shouts to me the message that Jerry Jenkins so kindly put into my inbox today that I cannot call myself a writer unless I am actually writing. I have so many ideas and opinions soaring through my brain that I am constantly thinking, “I should write that down, but where?” This blog is the answer to where; it is a turning on of the faucet.
I’ve tried keeping a journal, doing closed-door writing in GoogleDocs, or just putting ideas on a piece of paper, but none of those outlets fully satisfy my desire to share my ideas. Writing them down in those places is no different than keeping them inside my head, except in that I can edit if I ever go back to them. I need an audience, even if I never see the audience face to face. My ideas need to run free in the wide, open fields of public consumption. My ideas need to soar through the fresh air of critique and feedback. My ideas need to be minutely examined under a microscope of scientific dissection.
But that’s incredible scary! My self-doubt is my greatest enemy.
If I can only overcome the overwhelming fear of the dissection, the critique, the public opinion then I will be a writer. Here are my top 5 suggestions to get over the fear.
Face It Head On
If you are feeling overwhelmed by fear, recognize it for what it is. Rejection? Change? Uncertainty? By naming and recognizing the fear, you place yourself back in control.
I admit that I am afraid that I will be unable to meet deadlines and fulfill my obligations. After taking the Strengths Finder, I discovered that Responsibility is one of my top 10 strengths but Discipline is one of my bottom 5. This means that I have a high sense of obligation to perform but struggle with actually putting in the time and sacrifice to do it. Imagine the predicament this puts me in as a writer!
It is incredibly important to gain an understanding of who you are and why you do what you do. In the section above I mentioned the Clifton StrengthsFinder. This tool will give you the information you need to understand the areas in which you excel … and the areas in which you need focused personal growth. In addition to Responsibility being in my top 10 strengths, there is also a strength called Developer. This means that I see the potential in others and work to help them achieve that potential.
On the Gallup website it defines the Developer this way: You see the potential in others. Very often, in fact, potential is all you see. In your view no individual is fully formed. On the contrary, each individual is a work in progress, alive with possibilities.And you are drawn toward people for this very reason. When you interact with others, your goal is to help them experience success. You look for ways to challenge them. You devise interesting experiences that can stretch them and help them grow.
Don’t you see me doing just that with this blog post?! Seeing the potential in other writers and offering advice to help them grow.
Write Down Your Excuses
One of the most powerful exercises I’ve done is writing down all the things I believe about a particular topic and then researching whether or not my belief is correct. In the case of my personal experience, I wrote down everything I believed to be true about God. Then I poured through the Bible to see whether or not my assertions and beliefs could be verified. In 75% of what I believed, I discovered that I was wrong.
That’s right. I was completely wrong in what I believed. It was not because anyone had failed me or because I had not wanted to believe the truth. It was because I had experienced my own growth and developed my own understanding of something I had been exposed to. In fact, I had thought like a child and reasoned like a child. But when I hit my twenties it was time to put away childish things.
So take some time to write down what you believe about your fear, about yourself, about your reasons for not taking action. Then research them to see if those beliefs are valid and should be granted relevance. I am guessing that, like me, you will find that most of what you believe is holding you back is not simply not true.
Find a Cheerleader
It is absolutely incredible what can happen when you find one single person who is willing to encourage you. Maybe it’s someone incredibly important to you, like a parent, spouse, sibling, or boss. These close relationships can often buffer the critique with deep feelings of security and belonging.
Or maybe it’s someone you don’t know very well but who likes you a whole lot, or who thinks that what you are doing is cool. It could be the guy who gets coffee the same time as you do with whom you’ve struck up a casual “what are you up to today” kind of relationship. It could be a business acquaintance who would have their socks knocked off by your request to have them read your writing.
Either way, find someone who will give you that little bit of encouragement to keep going. For me, that person is a fellow small business owner with whom I struck up a relationship at Chamber of Commerce events. Through small talk over the years, we discovered that we are both passionate about reading and happen to like the same types of books. So I mentioned to her that I was thinking of writing my own book just to gauge her reaction. I was floored when she was not only encouraging, but offered to do first reads of my chapters. She took the initiative to set up monthly lunch dates with me to give me feedback and a deadline for writing a new chapter.
It would be easy to become skeptical here and wonder what her motivations are, but in reality no one can write the book I’m writing in the way I’m writing it. And it is unbelievably helpful in overcoming my fear to actually print something out and show it to someone.
Stop Thinking You are so Unique
Yes, you read that right. Stop thinking that your situation, your fears, your reasons for holding back are so special and unique that they are insurmountable. There are over six billion people on this planet. I guarantee you that there are others out there who are in a similar situation, feeling the same fear, and using the same excuses. So I ask you this, will you allow them to get over their fear before you do and do the thing you want to do so badly?
I heard an entrepreneur on a podcast once say how terrible the feeling was to have a great idea, fail to act on it, then see the great idea hit the market and make someone else a millionaire. Take that great idea you have and do something with it! You are not so special and so unique that you cannot overcome your hurdles and find success.