On doubt, worry and writing anyway.

I read the most beautiful article today. Wry, poignant, and so true I wanted to shout ‘yes. YES. YEEEEEES!’ at the screen as I read it. (Never advisable.) It’s about how it feels, and what it means, to be afraid to do what you really want to do. To live your life feeling that your are always somehow inadequate, or just not quite good enough. It’s by Anna Maxted (author of one of my favourite books Behaving like Adults, which makes me snort out loud with laughter.) Read the article here, if you haven’t already. It struck a chord with me, because it is exactly how I felt a couple of years ago.

For a long time, I was scared of writing. I knew I loved it, and that I wanted to do it, but every time I went to write something, the fear of other people reading it and sneering at it appeared out of nowhere and stopped me. I studied creative writing as part of my degree, and I loved it. But I was so intimidated. Many of the people on my course were clearly brilliant at writing fiction, and poetry. Some had already had things published. All the stuff read out in class was original and exciting and it scared me. My work was OK – not terrible, but certainly not as gripping as the other stuff being written in those classrooms. I decided that writing was great, and all, but not for me. I also developed a complete fear of anyone reading my work. People reading things I had written made me feel like I was naked.

It was only years later, after Sarah and I set up our business – which was something we were both terrified of, but egged each other on enough to manage to actually do it – did I feel that we had a story to tell, and I started this blog to tell it. Perhaps, because I had already done something that scared me, it became easier to do it again. I can’t tell you how terrified I was of getting it wrong. Petrified. But actually, the process of writing it was easier, and far more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I began to (whisper it) actually enjoy it. I began to think that I might be capable of writing other things too. As I wrote more, I got better at it, and people were so positive and encouraging that I began to think that it didn’t matter if it wasn’t quite pushing the boundaries of modern fiction. It didn’t matter, because it meant something. Not only to me, but to some of the people who read it. There are many things that I would still like to do, but am worried about failing at.  But increasingly, I see that whilst in some cases, I am fearful for the right reasons (I have at least several insane ideas for various ridiculous projects a week, all of them scare me – with good reason. They are all stupid.) in some cases, I am really just worrying about failing and looking silly. Well, you don’t need much perspective to see that a little bit of looking a bit silly because of something not working out is a lot better than a lot of looking on at other people trying things out and thinking ‘oh, I wish I could do that.’

As Anna says:

“In our hearts, we know what’s right. I tell my son, “If you didn’t run and jump, you wouldn’t get hurt, you’d be a bored child, sitting on a sofa, with no bruised knee. But you love climbing, exploring – the knocks are worth it for the joy.”

So I bite my tongue, and let the children climb to the top of every tree. I refuse to infect them with my fear; instead, I learn from them – try, because if you think you can do it, you probably can.”

If you want to raise confident children -and I do – I don’t want my kids to have the same fear of putting up their hand in class, of reading out their work, as I had – then you have to be prepared to take a few risks of your own. The last few years has taught me that the benefits of ignoring the fear and doing something worthwhile anyway far outweigh the slight hiccups and total blind panic that always ensue in the initial stages of Doing Scary Things.

By the way: this is my 100th blog post. To everyone who has read on so far – firstly, congratulations! You’ve sat through a LOT of poorly constructed sentences with questionable grammar! You’ve listened to me waffling on, you’ve suffered poor puns and you are STILL READING! (Is it some kind of compulsive sadistic thing? If so, I believe there is therapy available.) But thank you. It’s been your positive feedback, encouraging remarks and sharing that has allowed me to stop wallowing in a pool of self-doubt (all v boring) and actually write. When I write my Work of Great Genius, I shall dedicate it to you all.*

*Thereby forcing you to buy a copy.

The blog that Anna Maxted mentions is What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid? You can find it here. Very thought provoking stuff.

Rani, 15, West Lafayette, IN (Phillips Academy Andover) Image from Tumblr.

Rani, 15, West Lafayette, IN (Phillips Academy Andover) Image from Tumblr.

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