Do you ever find the universe keeps throwing the same message into your path?
Maybe it’s Big Magic at play, or something simpler relating to the way we notice things once they’re on our mind, but right now it feels like everyone I talk to is stalling at the idea of ‘readiness’.
The students on my course who desperately want to start a blog, but think they need to build their audience first.
The friend who’s ready to quit her day job, but wants more of her leads to be definite first.
Me, with the opportunity to write the fiction book that’s been bubbling in my head for years, suddenly realising I don’t know how to structure a novel.
The thing all of these scenarios and a great many more have in common is fear. It doesn’t feel like fear – in each case the stumbling block presents as a rational and logical quandary, but if we dig deep enough to the root of the issue, it’s that same old emotion behind it all.
Because, do you need a big audience to start a blog? Of course not – if that were true then none of us would ever have started, and bloggers would barely exist. But oh, it would be nice to do it that way, undoubtably – to put our heart and soul out there with no risk of rejection, of looking like we were trying too hard, or of feeling like we had failed. Given the choice, who wouldn’t want to blog to an established audience instead of into the abyss? Isn’t this just common sense?
Except. Except no matter how huge your audience on one platform, there’s never any guarantee of success on another. You might start your blog to a huge influx of readers from your Instagram, and then notice than none of them came back. You might find it harder to write than you’d expected, and struggle to post with so many eyes watching & waiting. You might still fail, because we’re human, and that happens sometimes, for infinite, unpredictable reasons.
When we delay taking an action we’ve identified for ourselves, it feels like we’re keeping ourselves safe. Our dreams get to stay clean and protected, safe in the possibility of ‘someday’ instead of the messy, gritty reality of ‘now’. But the problem is that clean and protected dreams only ever stay as that – dreams, not realities, not evolved into life-changes and adventures and steep learning curves. They’re like axolotls, kept in the dark and never allowed to mature and venture onto land.
My friend can’t make those leads any more concrete until she has the time away from her day job.
I won’t know how to write a novel until I sit down and do it, and wrestle with the results.
Recently I heard an interview with Mark Hamill (see, I can relate anything to him if I work hard enough!). In it he spoke about writing a preface for somebody’s book, and idly mentioned how he could write, ‘but could never be a writer’ because he couldn’t do it to a deadline.
Couldn’t write to a deadline? Whoever said that was an integral part of being a writer? A love of language, a story to share, sure – but timekeeping? That’s only needed in about 1% of the writing world. Even then there are those of us that push the boundaries a bit ;).
We tell ourselves these things because it lets us off the hook. When there’s something we think we could or should be doing, but it feels like too huge a step, it’s a relief to have an excuse not to take the leap.
‘I could’ve been a writer but I couldn’t work to deadlines’.
‘I could’ve been a blogger but I didn’t have an audience’.
In my experience, those callings don’t go away just because we squash them down under arbitrary limitations. We don’t stop wishing and wanting and wondering; it just starts to make us sad instead of giddy & excited.
Mark Hamill needs to write a freaking book – the man’s obsessed with alliteration and language and tells stories for an actual living already – and you, lovely reader, need to do whatever it is you’ve been saying you can’t. Because you’ll never be ready until you do, and you’ll never succeed unless you try.
You can, you are, you will. So this is me giving you – and myself, and Mr H, should he ever stumble across this – permission to have a go.