“Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.” – Seth Godin
Starting something new (a blog, a business, an email list, etc.), like having a blank page to work with, can be exciting. You haven’t done anything yet, and so there are an infinite number of directions you could go with your work. You can start over as many times as you want with an audience of zero (or an audience made up of your mom and nine of your friends). Changing directions and finding your voice is easy because there’s no one out there to expect you to be consistent, polished, or professional yet.
But if you’ve ever sat there, staring at a blank page, you probably know that all that freedom and potential can be terrifying as well. The possibilities are endless, and with so many unrealized hopes and dreams hovering in anticipation of your first move, it’s easy to freeze from the sheer force of creative potential threatening to explode out of your fingertips. How will you ever live up to all the expectations of greatness? Maybe you should give yourself just a little bit longer to build your portfolio, to work on your craft, to learn all the rest of the things in the world so that you know all of the answers to, you know, everything before you begin.
Take the Leap
No lie, coming to terms with the blank page, the zero factor, is tough. The distance between now and not now is infinite. As surely as the power of zero can work for you (you have room to make as many mistakes as you want with no one watching), that monster in your head—you know the one I mean—can and will use the power of zero against you. It’s that strong. But fighting your way past that monster is worth the effort.
I should know. Just a few weeks ago I took the leap. I started an author website. I have no idea what I want to say. I have no books yet, either, though I’m working hard on that. I have a grand total of 10 people on my email list and I know them all personally. But… if I hadn’t set up the website I wouldn’t have any people on my list. And if one day I want to sell my writing to anyone, I need to own my dream and put it out there in the universe now, not later.
The monster in my head has a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t do anything yet… “No one knows who you are,” “You don’t have anything published yet,” “No one wants to read what you write anyhow,” “You need more practice,”… I could go on, but I’m trying to quit the habit. How will anyone know who I am if I don’t tell them? How will people know if they want to read what I write if I don’t share what I’ve written? My point is self-policing, self-regulation—these are the only things that stand between you and your dreams.
Give Yourself Permission
Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion says an object in motion tends to remain in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest. If you don’t begin, you’re never going to achieve your goals. This is the mantra I chant to myself to counteract the voice that tells me I should have waited. Waited for what? Waited for someone to tell me it’s my turn? Waited for someone to give me permission? Or maybe I want the validation of someone I respect giving my work their stamp of approval.
The scariest part of taking the leap is that you might fail and now you’ve exposed yourself for others to witness it. That embarrassment and failure is what your mental monster is trying to protect you from. And while your rational brain knows that failure is part of the process of achieving success, your emotional brain knows that it’s probably going to hurt.
But if you want to do something you eventually just have to do it. You’ve got nothing to lose. You will only find your voice by using it. You don’t need someone else’s stamp of approval or someone else’s permission to take action on your dreams. You have the permission, it’s yours to give yourself. And you will find your tribe as well.
Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance editor in California. Her favorite genres are YA fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. She regularly obsesses over board games, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. Come share your ideas with her on Facebook and Twitter and on the web at www.writingrefinery.com. Also, check out her author website: www.elisabethkauffman.com and her author page on Facebook.