Fear and Shortcomings

I’ve been shying away from writing lately – avoiding the one thing that I’m usually the most comfortable doing.

I could chalk it up solely to the fact that I’ve been more invested in building inventory for my Etsy and all of my creative energy is going there, but while that may be part of the truth I know there’s a bit more to it than that.

I wrote a book, my first ever completed book, and all that’s left to do is finish one more round of editing. However at this point it’s taking me almost as much time to muster up the courage – yes, courage – to even look at what I’ve written. Just in this past week God has opened up every door for me to focus on finishing the book and getting started with the next one. One of my packages of supplies for my next project has even been delayed so I’m in a complete crafting lull. Yet I’ve spent my free time doing a lot of things that are not writing. This is the break I’ve been waiting for and now that it’s finally here I’m not taking advantage of it. Up to this point I really haven’t been able to figure out why the thought of finishing is so daunting when I’m so close to being done.

My best explanation is that I’m scared. Plain and simple. I’ve built up this writing dream since I could physically write, and now that I’ve reached a point of needing to actually turn a dedicated hobby into something physical (i.e. a book), I’ve psyched myself out.

I told my boyfriend a few months ago that I get afraid of showing people things like my photography and art because my confidence in those areas isn’t the highest, but I don’t care at all about showing people what I write (as long as it’s completed/edited) because writing is where I’m most comfortable; it’s where I’ve spent the most time, it’s what comes the most naturally to me, it’s my safe haven when audible words completely fail me, it’s my favorite thing to do. I don’t care much what other people think because I love it enough to be content with it. But that’s become a lot less accurate lately.

Nowadays, thoughts of people that I know in real life reading my book terrifies me because of how they may perceive the content. Thoughts of never selling a single copy of any book I ever write equally frightens me. Thoughts of my coworkers finding my book, reading it, and hating it (they’re librarians…reading is kind of a big deal where I work) haunts me everytime I walk into that building. Those thoughts pile on until I see the familiar Word document full of my brain’s treasured thoughts and ideas laid out in front of me and the temptation to hit “delete” becomes overwhelming.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. Maybe I’m (definitely) overthinking it. I know this is all coming from the girl who preached about “just start something and learn as you go” a couple months ago, but I’m honestly too scared to go now that I’ve come so close. Now that the dream I’ve held on to my whole life is becoming some sort of reality and I have no idea how it will be received (if at all), I’m stuck in a place of fearing a lifetime of trying and never really getting anywhere. There’s still such a long way to go and I may never get much farther than putting a few books out there with little in return.

Yes, I will admit that I’m venting…maybe even being a little pessimistic, but I’m also trying to convey to you that no one has their lives completely together. That’s the whole reason I try to be honest about my own shortcomings on this blog. I see a lot of people sharing the exact same sentiments as one another without actually showing the realities behind it – without showing the realities of being human – while showcasing only the highlight reels of their lives (especially online). Of course keeping things private is important and I don’t expect everyone to share every hardship they come across…in fact some of us share too much and I respect those who keep their private life private. However there is a balance of keeping things private and sharing what may be helpful to others, and it’s something I have learned to do over time. All in all, it’s just important to me to put out a reality rather than a fantasy. It’s important to me to say “hey, here’s a shortcoming I have and here’s what I’m learning” because I can’t in good conscience sit back and just preach at you. I can’t tell you what I’ve learned without giving any realistic context. I can’t paint a picture in black-and-white, because most things just aren’t as simple as they seem. I can’t pretend that I have it all together and everything I say is the truth, because that’s ridiculous – I’m human. I have no right telling anyone else what to do when I’m a constant work in progress myself, but I can be honest with you and tell you what I have learned, am currently trying to learn, and/or where God leads me. I can tell you what I think and I will tell you why I think that way, and I will definitely tell you what God tells me, but there will rarely be a time in which I write a blog post as if I know better than you, especially if I have no personal connection to the message I’m trying to convey. Some people can do that and do it well, but that’s not my calling. I’m just here to show that it’s okay to be human because we are, but it’s also important to strive to be the best versions of ourselves and realize God is the ultimate support system. 

Anyway, that felt important to get across but now I’m getting back to the actual point in reference to me being afraid to finish and publish my book and why it’s relevant to people who are probably not trying to write a book.

Being afraid of failure – even when you’re normally super confident in what you do – is normal. It’s okay, as long as you push through it and give yourself time to figure out the root of the problem. No part of life is going to be simple, and it’s rarely ever going to be black-and-white. It’s not as easy as “hey I wrote a book!” There was a lot of struggling, stress, failure, and wanting to give up that went into that book…or whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.

And that’s a good thing. It makes what you do mean a thousand times more. The uphill climb makes the downhill slide a lot more fun, or something like that.

I’m not saying fear is a positive, or that you should give into it. What I’m saying is that fear is inevitable and while you should find ways to overcome it, there is nothing wrong with the fact that you were scared to do something that is scary. What matters more is how you treat fear. If you live with a security blanket tightly wrapped around you then you won’t get anything done, but if you live with the knowledge that fear will come and you will be ready to deal with it patiently, I think you’re going to be just fine.

 

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Stop Overthinking and Start Something

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in the fifth grade. I had just finished a short story about a teddy bear coming to life and being my best friend, or some other generic story that a ten year old girl would come up with, when I decided that writing would be my life’s focus from then on. I knew I was in love with it but up until that point I couldn’t decide if I loved it more than fashion or art or baking or any of my other thousand passions I had going at once, but I decided that I just had to pick something and run with it.

It seems silly to think that a fifth grader thought that was the right time for her to get serious about her career path, but even then I hated wasting time. My mother always told me that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings” and the mentality of that phrase sticks with me now. I learned early on that boredom is unnecessary – there are so many things to do and not enough time to do them. I learned that life is full of potentially exciting, creative, wonderful things. My favorite of those things happened to be writing, and it’s remained my focus – my main life goal – ever since.

I wasn’t a great writer starting out – I was a little kid with an unoriginal imagination. I used to write song lyrics about breaking up with my imaginary boyfriend (probably Joe Jonas), how much I wanted to be Nancy Drew, and all my favorite lunch meats…

However, I’m telling you that I got significantly better. I started out pretty terribly, I moved on to angsty poetry and depressing short stories as a teenager, and I’m here now – nearly done with my first book. I’m not boasting, but I know I have to have improved since my lunch meat song lyric days, and that’s the whole point. I started out embarrassingly bad, but I started nonetheless.

You could easily make the point that I began as a child, so of course I’m better now – I’ve had over a decade of constant practicing. That’s not exactly true though because while writing is my focus, I have recently explored some other long-buried passions, and the same can be said for those even though I started out as an adult.

I never allowed myself to take my own art seriously because I simply wasn’t the artist of the family. Both my mom and sister are full-time artists: serious actually respected artists. I knew I wasn’t as talented as they were because I’m crafty, not a “real” artist. So in turn I repressed my love for it for most of my life, but in the past year I decided that even though I’m not the same type of artist they are does not mean I can’t partake in my own art endeavors. I wasn’t the worst artist in existence when I started out, but I definitely wasn’t where I am now. Over the course of less than a year, I’ve improved like you can’t believe. I’m actually proud to show people most of the stuff I make now, and I get really excited to finish projects. 

Why? Because I started. I stopped thinking about my hang-ups about art, I stopped thinking about how I wanted to paint but knew I couldn’t make money doing it or I would never be as good as my other family members, and just did it. I taught myself (and of course am still teaching myself, because no one is ever quite done learning) how to hand letter, how to use Adobe Illustrator properly, how to hone my own style, and so on. Again, I’m not saying this to brag, I’m trying to tell you that the most important thing you can do is to just go for it – whatever it is, as long as you work at it and stay open to inevitable changes in the plans you worked so hard on. 

I have learned tremendously by starting where I was at. I created five different blogs over the course of a decade before finally creating my own company around this one, and it was the failure of the other five that lead to me growing and knowing what I should and shouldn’t do. I’ve tried to make other companies – tried to do so many things that just didn’t go as planned. I fail all the time and it’s great, because it means I’m a step closer to improvement every time. I’ve built a little community here and on Instagram, and I recently-ish started an Etsy account associated with my blog in which I sell some of my art and other things I make/design…I’m so proud of it all that my focus is no longer how successful it is financially. Obviously that is a very important factor, but I’m where I’m supposed to be right now and I will continue trying until it works. I have faith and I’m open to change. I couldn’t have gotten to this point if I wasn’t willing to start somewhere and be okay with potentially failing again. I still have a ridiculous amount to learn, but the only way to really accomplish that is with effort. 

So many people cling to the phrases “I’m working on it,” “I’m researching,” or “It’s just not the right time.” The problem with those statements is that they are 99% of the time excuses for fear. Of course I believe in careful planning, but there is no way to predict everything that may happen. When you start, you will encounter problems you never could have anticipated and you will have to come up with solutions for them. Your plans will absolutely change from the moment you start, and that’s good. That means you’re headed in the right direction; closer to getting where you need to be.

I’m not at the finish line – I can’t even see it. I have more to learn, I’ll encounter plenty more obstacles, and I’m still crossing my fingers that people will find, like and buy the things I create. I still sometimes worry that I will publish my book and people will think it’s garbage, but there is no way to know what will happen and I’ll be better for the next time. 

There is no way to know how to improve if you don’t start somewhere. Anywhere.