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One Thing I Would Explain to My Younger Self

I have attempted this exercise multiple times and find that there is too much for me to say in a single letter without it turning into a book (what a shock!). But I’ll focus on a single point I wish my younger self could understand.

The fear doesn’t go away.

It really doesn’t.

I know you think that the fear means that there is something wrong. That all of your worries and the thousands of rabbit trails what-iffing across your mind and taking you down dark and frightening paths require your attention. That somehow because they exist, you should respond in kind and be afraid.

But simply because you feel afraid does not mean you have to act afraid. And not every fear has to be resolved through mental examination.

In fact, I’ll just tell you upfront, you can’t.

The only thing you can do with fear is ground yourself and move forward.

If fear has its way, you will never do anything, and it gets progressively worse. Little by little, it will nickel and dime your time away. Don’t believe the whisper that it will let you live more in time.

Now it isn’t that fear is evil and wants to destroy you. It’s trying to keep you safe. And once you understand that, it helps. Because you aren’t up against the conquering dominating entity that wants to control your life but the suffocating force that whispers it just wants to protect you. It is so persuasive because it speaks some truth.

And the greatest lie it tells is that you have to wait until the fear is resolved, until it is satisfied, to move forward.

You will wait forever.

I’m sorry.

I know that’s not what you want to hear because fear can be so painful and uncomfortable. And when you take action, it may get worse.

But you have to take action.

Now, let me caveat. Sometimes your fear will tell you good things and important things (again this is why it is so persuasive). But unless you are literally in a jungle or a wilderness and there is literally something that wants to kill or eat you, inaction is generally not the right response (and even then that choice is sometimes deadly). Constantly living in your comfort zone is not going to get you where you want to be.

And deep down you know this. You don’t want to stagnate. You don’t want to hide. You want to reach your fullest potential.

So what do you do about the fear?

Well, you can suckerpunch it and jump in headfirst. I’ve found that that works pretty well for somethings. Sometimes you can even shock the fear and leave it behind. (This is my preferred method; not every situation allows such a response.)

But on those occasions when the fear grabs you and fills your vein with some sort of supervillain freezing fluid, you’ve got to take a subtler tactic. Outline what you’re going to do. Ground yourself in the present moment and counter the negative what-ifs with positive ones. Give yourself small actionable steps. Then make yourself take them.

If you’re really struggling, give yourself a reward for getting through the tasks. Something that you would like. (And for goodness’s sake, follow through on the reward. As your future self, I know good and well you don’t. You wouldn’t do that to a friend, so don’t do it to yourself. Reward and care for yourself for getting through the insane challenges you set. You’ll get even farther if you care for yourself.)

There will be a rush of adrenaline as you realize what you’re doing. That you are breaking free. That you’re moving toward your goals and not being suffocated by this friend on your back.

But more often than not, the questions are going to come. Now I know that you did press on in many cases, but you always thought there was something wrong with you because the questions and the fear didn’t go away.

It’s part of who you are. It’s part of the way your mind works. You are always questioning, and fear often speaks the loudest. And the fact that you have been pressing through the fear and pursuing your hopes and dreams is wonderful.

I just know you could go so much farther if you would stop questioning “why does my brain work this way?” and “is there something to this?” and “how can I fix myself so this isn’t part of me?”

The fear sticks around. One, five, even fifty victories won’t always remove it. In fact, fear is that frenemy who moves the goalposts all the time. Generally without much warning. But some part of it does get easier with practice. It’s not that the fear is silenced but rather that experience and your confidence grow as well, and they counter fear’s response.

What about the failures though?

Oh yes. They’ll try to encourage fear to be even more protective. And here is where you have to get even firmer.

Failure is as much a part of life as fear. If you can change your perspective to focus on the fact that failure comes and it brings with it the opportunity to learn, then that’s better. It makes the failure easier to stomach. Understand that it is part of life, do your best, learn what you can, stop beating yourself up ad nauseum.

You can do this. You know what you’ve got to do, and you’re doing it. I wish I could tell you that the fear went away. I can’t. But I can tell you that in the future you are more confident. You have so much more experience. And you have better discernment in determining whether something deserves your attention as well as the severity of a particular failure.

You’re still scared in the future. The difference is you don’t obsess quite as long before you act. And that is making a tremendous difference.

Pushing On Through the Discomfort

One of the key points that Jeff Goins makes in his book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, is that practicing in public is essential. He uses Picasso as his primary example, featuring his association with the esteemed Gertrude Stein and other magnificent creators of the time. While I don’t seriously want to live in another time period (pretty sure, I’d get myself killed in record time), I would have loved to be around such creativity and expression. (If I ever get to time travel and go meet people, I have a ranked list. Come on, science! I have the best adventure planned!)

Anyway practicing in public has been one of the hardest elements for me. Part of it is because I struggle with marketing. I am getting better with it. In fact, I am miles ahead of where I once was.

For the most part, this is a head struggle. An unfortunate belief that I have to be invited to participate as well as exposure to individuals who are exceptionally annoying with their self-promotion hangs on. My mind went to extremes in its assessment of what an author had to do, even though I had examples of creators who did it well. I suspect that the desire to be asked (because that means one is wanted) is the most deeply rooted.

Ultimately that is rooted in fear or pride. I suspect mine is a mix. I mean, it’s nice to be asked and wanted, but it also means that there isn’t as much risk.

So yes, I have been pushing forward with addressing this fear, unease, and discomfort. It’s annoying that it has taken this long. I would like to see faster progress. But, for anyone who is still in the early stages of the journey, it does get better. It’s not a fast process. And it requires intentionality.

That’s probably the most frustrating and yet encouraging part of all this. It’s a process. It doesn’t get overcome with a single win, but neither is it destroyed with a single loss. Each day, it has to be addressed (or at least most days; it is a faster process if you do it more regularly). One of my tools is a to do list that breaks down what all needs to happen with set deadlines.

In addition to this, I am doing the “write 500, practice in public” challenge.

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve been writing every single day for years now. Over twenty-five years at this point. It’s almost always been in a fairly quiet way. A lot of days, no one sees anything I write. But for a time, I wrote and posted every day on Wattpad. Some good did come from that, but I need to do better about focused practicing in public.

See, where I always dropped the ball (often knowingly) was in not advertising what I was doing. I’d promote other people, but not my own stories. And it literally only takes seconds to customize a link and prep a tweet or post for the various social media platforms. Writing the chapter or blog post takes far more time.

So to get better in this regard, these are the simple tasks that I am going to take to make my practicing in public more meaningful.

  • Post at least once a day
  • Promote at least one piece I have completed
  • Invest time in choosing good keywords
  • Correct my categories (blog specific)
  • Choose tags for better focus (includes research)
  • Use the customized hashtags I started branding

There is more that I can do and will do in the future to make this more meaningful and effective. It will also be in conjunction with my other advertising and marketing journeys as I continue to learn more about Facebook and AMS and so forth.

So what about you? What is your most persistent challenge with succeeding in your writing dream?

Jeff Goins’s Challenge for 500 Words a Day in Public

Every month brings with it new challenges, some intentional, some not. In November, I intended to participate in Jeff Goins’s Practice in Public for a month challenge. It’s a fantastic idea, and it is certainly one that I need to improve on.

But, some serious problems developed within the course of the month that led to my being able to compete the writing with ease but not all the posting.

So when Jeff Goins posted a new challenge, which is the 500 Words a Day Writing Challenge. The goal is simple. Write at least 500 words a day, and do it publicly.

Now technically, I have been writing every day for years. Ever since I was a little girl actually. When I was a kid, my grandfather, father, and mother all told me that the only way to get better was to do it every day. And, for whatever reason, that but not flossing connected. In fact, if I don’t write, I start to get nervous. Hitting 10,000 words a day is not nearly the challenge it used to be. It’s something of an addiction.

What I do struggle with is doing my art in public and talking more freely about my projects.

I tend to write and write and write, do some editing, and then put off the marketing and audience building because it is the part I am least comfortable with. Over the years, I have become more comfortable with the various aspects of this. Releasing multiple books and allowing for a slow marketing build has worked to my advantage. I’ve made enough to pay some bills, read a lot, and tried out some techniques. But I haven’t sunk a great deal into it because, well, financial challenges and because most of the stories I am releasing are directly connected (the other series with a couple exceptions are indirectly related and will come together). I have told myself that I will significantly increase all marketing activities once I have more stories published. On January 11, I reach the critical point for the marketing push, and actually things have shifted already. All of the remaining head baggage and excuses have to be jettisoned.

So my primary reason for accepting the 500 Word a Day Challenge is for the public practicing. And also because I love discovering new writers, and where better to find them than when they are just starting off and could especially use that little bit of extra encouragement and love?

It’s going to be a great event. I really do want to see what would happen if I became significantly more regular in posting online. I used to post daily on Wattpad, but, after Wattpad’s handling of certain situations relating to author protection as well as miscommunication and arguable lies from the HQ, I chose to step down and away. Whether I will return, I don’t know.

However, I am going to make sure that I practice in public and do it in a more targeted fashion. I’ll share more about my plan for that tomorrow.

Now if you’re also a writer and you’re interested in this challenge, definitely stop on by. You can find more information here:

Until the next time, have a great day and much love!

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