It’s time to quit selling yourself (and your words) short.
Recently, I’ve been dealing with a strange compulsion to run long distances even though I'm not an athletic person.
I'm almost positive I'm physically “running:” my legs are propelling me forward; my arms are swinging at my sides. I’m pretty sure I'm wearing the right clothing and accessories. I’m confident I'm wearing the right shoes; the nice gentleman at the running store told me so!
This year, I've run one full marathon and am currently in the process of training for my second half marathon. I know for you “actual” runners out there this probably doesn't sound like a whole lot, but remember: I am not a runner, and I never have been...
…and at this point, I hope you’re realizing the irony in my story so far. “How can you say you’re not a runner, when you’re running three times a week and finishing marathons??”
Hmm…you know, you may just have a point!
I hear many of these same ideas from people who are writing regularly, but still insist they’re “not real writers” for some reason.
If this is you, maybe you don’t feel like your words are “good” enough. Maybe they’re not quite perfect, or you’re afraid nobody will find them valuable. Maybe you’re just afraid of being judged for what they say.
Hopefully, if you realize how silly I sound calling myself a non-runner, you realize it’s equally as strange to describe someone who’s putting words out there (in any form) as a non-writer.
Just like I can look for the physical evidence to prove myself a runner, you can look for some similar clues to figure out if you’re a real writer or not. (hint: probably)
Did you write something that took thoughts out of your head and moved them forward into the world? You’re a writer.
Did you write something that challenged your thinking or someone else’s? You’re a writer.
Did you write something that was difficult to say? Maybe it was a personal story, or a big project that took a lot of discipline on your part. You’re a writer.
Did you write…something? You’re a writer. Welcome to the club!
Note that there is, of course, a difference between writing and great writing, just as there’s a difference between my running and that of a great runner (trust me!).
Luckily for us all, in both running and writing, nobody’s made any rules about how good you have to be to get started.
Once you’ve begun a writing project, you have plenty of time to perfect your message and plenty of folks who are willing to help. Believe it or not, getting your first draft out there is the most difficult thing you’ll do.
Just like lots of runners will tell you the hardest step is the first one out the door, the most difficult word you write will likely be the first one on a blank page.
(Note: In her book “Everybody Writes,” Ann Handley recommends John McPhee’s spectacular advice for overcoming this hurdle by writing a salutation like “Dear mother” or “Hey you” first. This not only defeats the blank page itself, but gets you into the mindset of writing to a known individual in your own voice.)
To put it bluntly, you’ll never develop the confidence necessary to put your story out there until you start calling your craft what it is: writing. Getting started is not that hard, and it’s not that scary. It’s time to stop selling yourself and your words short!
After all, who’s better prepared to put your story out there than you?