Every year for my birthday, I reflect on what the year has taught me. Last year, I talked about fighting insecurities. This year, I’m mulling over the fact that, one year ago, I hadn’t published a single book. Today, I have four: two non-fiction, two fiction.
When I was 10 years old, fresh off Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, I began writing a book about a girl who’s picked up from school and whisked off to a fantastical world.
I never finished the book, but I’ve never lost the desire to create stories. Except, like many, I said I’d do it “some day” or I convinced myself I couldn’t do it “for real.” I started and abandoned heaps of stories. But I never stopped wanting.
We’re so afraid of failing that we never even try
And that’s the worst kind of failure. Worse than if you tried and failed, because at least then, you tried. You took a risk. You threw yourself into it and gave it a shot.
Because truth is, failure isn’t your enemy. Failure teaches you what works (and what doesn’t). Failure helps you learn who you are and what you’re capable of. Failing at something doesn’t mean YOU are a failure. It just means your approach didn’t work or you didn’t have enough knowledge at the time or you need to keep practicing.
If you only do what you know you can do, you’re stagnant. You won’t grow. You’ll forever live in the shadow of your potential.
Step out of your own suffocating shadow and be brave
When I decided to shift my business from editing to coaching, I knew I’d have to go through the process myself. I’d have to publish a book. And not just non-fiction—fiction, too. So I said, “I’m going to write and publish a novel.” And I did.
But it was hard. Some days I hated what I wrote, and I knew my process hurt as much as it helped. I told myself anything I thought might get me through it.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect.” “This is your first published novel. No one’s expecting perfection.” “You’ll learn from this, and the next book will be better.” “You’re doing this to learn the process to help others.” “You can do this. Others have.”
And I refused to listen to the doubts that crept in and told me “You can’t.”
The reasons “you can’t” are excuses
I’ve yet to hear a valid excuse. Because excuses are born of fear or lack of desire. If you want it enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I wanted to publish a novel, and I did. But I didn’t know that I could until I did.
I won’t know if I can write a sequel until I do it. I won’t know if I can improve as an author until I write more. I won’t know if I can start a new series until I do.
If you want something—anything, whether it’s writing-related or not—you must DO. Nothing comes from talking. Nothing comes from “I can’t because…” statements, either. All those do is draw arbitrary lines in the sand. Nudge the line with your toe. Douse it with water. Get rid of it.