Taking new steps in life, steps that may require boldness or courage, are not always easy. And while external factors may be part of what holds us back (finances, family, job constraints) it is often our very selves that prove to be a roadblock. Maybe you want to talk to that cute girl in the grocery store. Or apply for a job you really want. Or you want to write a book.
Do you hear the negative voices in your head? Do you feel the knee-jerk reaction to follow your usual routine? Do you find comfort in familiarity? Oftentimes, we are our biggest hindrance to taking risks.
For three years I kept saying I wanted to write a romance novel. In High School I went through a phase where I read a Nora Roberts book a day. Not kidding. I consumed NR like a vacuum cleaner moving across her section of the used bookstore. At the age of 15, I “wrote” my “first romance novel.” It was short, immature, and terrible. But it was also some of the most fun I’d had writing. To be lost in a world of the heart and getting to hang out with characters I genuinely like spending time with? Such a fun thing. I came up with a general idea for my next book, then sat on it. For over ten years.
It was just the bare bones of a plot. I knew the basics of the hero and the heroine. I knew how they were going to meet. And I knew I was excited to try and write it. Then ten years passed me by.
These characters hung out in my head for ten years, sometimes it felt like my mind was a series of rooms and these two characters just wandered from room to room, staring out windows, staring at me, wondering when I would tell their story.
I went to college, went to grad school, got a few jobs, and kept “joking” for years and years that I wanted to write my romance novel. Then, that joke turned into frustration. Then anger. It didn’t take long for me to realize the anger was directed soley at myself.
Here was a project I knew, in my heart, I wanted to pursue. I knew it would be fun and fulfilling. And yet I kept putting it off.
I knew I was making excuses. I knew I was allowing myself a self-fulfilling prophecy (some of our loudest thoughts can be fears and insecurities. And since our psyche wants, above all, to be right, it often makes our greatest fears a reality. Therefore reinforcing that, yes, the fears are correct. See?). And above all I knew that I only had myself to blame.
I knew, at the root of my next-step-delay, was the underlying fear that if I completed this project and if I poured my heart, time, and energy into it, it would end up being no good. If I never try to write it, it can’t ever be terrible. But, if I do write it, and try hard, and care a lot, it can end up a shitty book. This fear of failure and vulnerability proved to be the most powerful roadblock to me genuinely dedicating myself to the story.
So I just broke it down. I didn’t look at it as a large work, but instead as scenes in my head I needed to get down on paper. I looked at it as a time to simply hang out with my characters, interview them, and ask what they wanted me to talk about.
If there is something you’ve been thinking about doing, or starting, or trying, but you can feel yourself holding back for some reason: stop. Try to identify where this is coming from and then ask yourself if the anxiety that comes with taking a chance is worse than the pain of never trying.
You can be bold and should be bold. You are more capable than you think and deserve to see what’s on the other side of taking those first few steps.