As long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. But for one reason or another, I always put off the dream. I set it aside and allowed time to pass, doing things that seemed more important.
I neglected to take the most important step you can take in pursuing your dream: the first one.
I built up excuses in my mind about opening myself up, not thinking anyone would want to read my words.
But in reality, I was succumbing to the death knell of so many would-be writers. I was stalling, because I didn’t want to be exposed and rejected.
What does it take?
This is the most common question I'm asked about writing a book, starting a blog, creating a network, or doing just about anything.
What's required? How do I do this? Will it be hard?
The answer may be simpler than you think. It is the most critical ingredient to doing something that matters:
You’ve got to start.
Keep it simple, don’t complicate the process, and don't over think it. Simply start somewhere (where you are right now is probably as good a place as any).
Too many of us delay doing work that matters due to seemingly legitimate reasons. I did it for years.
My fear of exposure made me constantly postpone taking the step that mattered most. The first one.
I would tell myself, “I'm not a good writer.” But I now understand that the message is more important than the level of quality I consider my writing to be.
I had to step past my insecurities and write, anyway.
They did it
What do Stephen King, JK Rowling, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Seth Godin all have in common?
And they all had work that was rejected.
Stephen King sold his first story The Glass Floor for $35. It was a start. But the first novel that he completed The Long Walk was rejected. I’ve read that Carrie was rejected 30 times and Stephen finally gave up and threw it in the trash, but thankfully his wife fished it out.
JK Rowling says she started Harry Potter while on a train and she finished it using an old manual typewriter. Rowling was on welfare at the time and a divorced, single mother. Twelve publishing houses rejected Harry Potter before it finally found a publisher and in 1997, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council so she could carry on writing.
Steve Jobs famously started his first computer business in a garage with Steve Wozniak. Wozniak insists it actually all started in Jobs bedroom, but what matters is they started somewhere. By the way, the computer they created was rejected by both HP and Atari. That’s how Apple was born.
Oprah suffered an abusive childhood and watched television as her escape while dreaming of becoming famous. She started a broadcasting career at WVOL radio in Nashville. She later went on to television where she co-anchored a 6 o’clock news broadcast from which she was fired. Oprah started over again in morning television and eventually became the host of the number one talk show on television for 24 seasons.
Seth Godin frequently talks about his failures. That’s good news, because it also means he’s started enough projects to fail over and over again and yet have major successes along the way. Seth has revealed that he has gotten 900 rejection letters from book publishers.
Now it’s your turn…
Your work might get rejected, too, but even the best of the best get rejected. None of us are safe. Sooner or later we’ve got to take the step, dip our toes or dive in.
Here’s what you can do today:
- Open your word processor.
- Type a title for your book.
- Write the first page.
It doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t even have to be great. Simply start. Make it physical. Make it real.
Keep in mind that whatever you write doesn’t have to be published or shared with anyone. The only mission at hand is to write. Write freely and openly, mix ideas to create a unique perspective.
And see what you end up with.
It’s the starting that matters
I finally wrote my first book, a memoir about my childhood, at the age of 37. I had no plan, outline or goal. No preconceived notions or dreams of grandeur. I was no longer concerned with whether I was a good writer or not or if anyone would read it.
Earlier this year, I gave away free review copies of my memoir on Story Cartel, and it became their second most downloaded book on the site.
If we don't start, we'll never know what could be.
Publishing my memoir inspired me to create a blog and social network in a specific health niche and since then I’ve reached people all over the world.
Thanks to starting, I learned that I love to encourage people, especially those overwhelmed with doubt. Because of that, I’ve wanted to step out my original niche to reach even more people, but I've I put it off.
Maybe I didn’t think I was good enough or was afraid of rejection. But then one fateful day, I took an important step and started a new blog I had only dreamed of but consistently delayed.
In only a few months, I received an award for the blog. Who knew? The point isn’t just that I'm better than I gave myself credit for (although that’s a good point, too). It's about starting anyway, regardless of what the results may be.
Sometimes we need a push to get started — and that’s okay. Maybe this will be that for you. I hope so.
Are you ready to start? Share in the comments.