For a long time, I have had a list of goals in mind that I have actively avoided pursuing.
I do not like admitting this. Not as someone who spends a significant portion of every week telling strangers that they should do things that scare them and create things that challenge them. That they should stretch themselves and not let the world stand in their way.
But part of my brand is that I remain honest — about writing, about productivity, about being a creator and everything that comes along with that. So this is me being one hundred percent honest. There are things I really, really want to do. And I am terrified.
Here’s the thing about goals and ambitions and accomplishing what you want to accomplish: You have to do the things even when the things are not going to be easy to do.
I am still learning this. Of COURSE I am. Like you, reading this right now, I am a work in progress. I am not perfect, and I still have a lot of room to grow.
It’s okay to be afraid. I am. But saying “I’ll get to it someday” is not going to get you very far in anything you try.
There is no time for “someday.” The time to do your thing is now.
Why do we keep putting off the things we want to do when we could just start them right now?
We are afraid of being terrible at the things we want to be good at. Which is absolutely backwards, since the only way to “get good” at something is to do it terribly until you figure out how to do it less terribly. But oh, we’re scared. We have this fantasy that we will pick up a pen or a musical instrument or a sport for the very first time and are already miraculously good at it even though we have never done it before.
This is not a fairytale, we are not instantly professional level good at everything we try. I’m not a professional writer because I was born naturally good at writing. I got to where I am because I practiced — meaning I wrote nonstop for years, even though I never ended up publishing most of it — and continue to practice to this day.
There is no “I am the best I will ever be.” There is no “I am bad at this and will never get any better.” First, you are totally allowed to do things you aren’t good at — who cares? If it makes you happy and it’s not hurting anyone else, go for it. Second, if you put in the time and effort, you can improve in many creative areas, especially writing. No one is born a good writer. You have to learn by doing, in every single case.
We don’t like being told we can’t do something, even when we really want to do it. Even though most adults don’t throw full-blown temper tantrums when they are told they can’t have what they want, it doesn’t mean we aren’t conditioned to avoid being criticized or talked down to. For me, it’s the silent approval my mom offers when I tell her I’m doing something unexpected that terrifies me most — the “I love you and will support you but I don’t think you should, but I’m not going to tell you that out loud” reaction. I hate that.
It’s the fear of being made fun of for having a dream that steers a lot of people away from the direction they long to go in. It’s sad, but also completely understandable. Where does it come from? Probably all the middle school scars you thought were gone but actually only faded — you know, all those years it was uncool to be different and having passion for something was a dangerous endeavor.
For some creators, being told “no” is a key motivator — someone says they do not think you will ever be a writer so part of your mission becomes to prove them absolutely wrong. But this does not work for everyone. The people pleasers of the world sometimes just want to go quietly about their business without stirring up trouble, and that’s what going against accepted belief does.
We secretly know it’s going to be hard, and we don’t want to give up or fail. I have one dream in particular in mind as I am writing this section, and it’s hitting way too close to home. With no experience, it would take me years to build up a decent skill set in this area in particular. And what I am most afraid of is that six months in I will stop trying because of how challenging it will be, because this has happened to me many times before.
Guess what, fellow aspiring writers? Failure is inevitable. But there is also a big difference between “failing” and not being good at something. As I have already mentioned, you aren’t going to start something new and instantly have it mastered. You’re going to be terrible in the beginning. The key to success is working through that, and consistently coming back to work on it and learning and growing as you do.
The truth is, you might really want to do a thing and then realize once you start it that it isn’t “your” thing. You know what? That’s okay! Because at least you will have been able to say you tried it and you now know you have no interest in pursuing it further whatsoever.
That’s so much better than spending your whole life wondering how things might have been different if you had bothered to try. Yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes, there are going to be moments you want to quit. But the thing is, you will either fall in love with your dream — more so than you would have if you had kept it exclusively in your imagination — or you will fall out of love with it. Either way, you will never know until you try.
Why shouldn’t you wait? Well, the answer to this one is simple: Because there is absolutely no reason to. Yes, practically, you might have to put some things off until you complete a project or get back from a trip — there are reasonable exceptions. But if you’re just sitting around your house wishing you could write a book, why the heck don’t you just sit down and start writing one?
Easier said than done, I know. But you get the idea. Most of the time, “someday” is just a lame excuse. Most of the time, if there is something you want to start doing, you can start doing it today. Don’t even wait until tomorrow! Just do it! Do it now!
Fear is a nearly impossible hurdle to clear. I know — as an Anxious human, I know all too well the power of being afraid of something irrational. But our dreams are bigger than our fears. If you want to write a book, for example, but you are afraid no one will like it … well, think of it this way: They might love it, but they won’t be able to because you will never have written it.
Don’t let your worries about what might or might not happen stop you from making SOMETHING happen. I’m serious, this is not just a bunch of inspirational fluff designed to get you to follow my blog or subscribe to my Patreon (although … ha, just kidding). I NEED TO HEAR THIS TOO. I AM ALSO STRUGGLING.
So we all really just need to pick that one thing that terrifies us, that one “someday” thing, and start doing it. Like, right now. At the very least, we need to put together some kind of plan, like: “Here’s how I am going to be able to afford to do this thing.” Right? Right.
We can do this.
We are brave, We can face our fears.
We can do the things that scare us. Because we will be so, so glad we did the moment we do.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.