Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Bryan Hutchinson, founder of the blog Positive Writer. He just released a new book about writing called, Writer’s Doubt. Also, be sure to check out the writing contest he’s hosting.
“This too shall pass.” I’m sure you’ve heard this adage before. But what does it really mean?
Maybe you’ve gone through a difficult situation and someone said it to make you feel better. Or perhaps you were feeling blocked or frustrated and said it to yourself to help you persevere. Some of us even have this posted on our computer screens as a reminder of the temporary status of a situation.
This too shall pass.
I’ve heard it a lot lately. It’s become a catchall phrase to soothe any worry or struggle a person might be experiencing.
And as comforting as it seems, this is not a harmless saying. In fact, if you’re a writer, it could prolong what you’re going through or, heaven forbid, make it worse.
Think about it: what does “this too shall pass” mean? Waiting. And guess what? As an artist, waiting is the last thing you should do.
What are you waiting for?
Are you holding out for inspiration? Motivation? Desire? Better days to come? Maybe a deadline to pass or that last-minute surge of energy to finish a project you’ve been putting off?
Here’s the truth: All those excuses are bogus. When you’re waiting, you’re not creating. You’re allowing valuable time to go by, which you can never get back. It’s gone… forever.
When I talk about waiting, I’m not referring to mindfulness and meditation, learning to embrace the in-between by taking a walk along the seashore on a beautiful sunshiny day. Those are helpful activities.
I’m talking about stalling.
The doubt we all face (and how to overcome it)
In times of waiting, we allow our minds to wander. And too often when we do this, we begin to imagine the worst: that we aren’t really artists. We’re just pretending, and maybe, we should give up.
After all, “this too shall pass” doesn’t seem to be passing with any haste. In fact, haven’t you noticed it’s getting worse?
That’s doubt talking.
If you wait long enough, hoping those self-defeating thoughts will evaporate, they won’t. And the longer you wait, the more rooted they become. It’s a trap many of us fall into.
Here’s what you need to do…
Stop waiting. Because it’s not helping. “This too shall pass?” Not likely. Not until you do something.
The good news is you can do something. You can write. It’s within you to create greatness. All you have to do is start. You have the talent, the ability, the imagination. If you start now by creating and focusing on your art, doubt will take a backseat to the power of doing something.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: You are magical.
Taking action will bring forth power within you that you didn’t know was there. You can worry whether you’re good enough, filling yourself with anxiety, or you can let go of fear and start doing something that will make a difference.
You are able. You are more than good enough. You have greatness in you, wanting to come out. Doubt is loudest and at its most insidious when you do nothing. So just start moving your fingers. Fear will retreat when you advance.
A practical plan is to start with 500 words a day. Just write what comes to mind, and when you reach your word limit with still have more to say, keep writing.
Then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And so on.
The good, the bad, and the ugly (of writing)
Write when it feels good and when it’s hard and when the words come out all wrong. Write when you’re tired and angry and unsure of your ability.
As you do this, sooner or later, your message will come. What seems like gibberish today will become what you’ve always wanted to say but could never muster the courage to get out.
Try it. Keep writing until your message becomes clear and your voice emerges. Write your story with boldness, facing fear as it comes and doing it anyway. Because that’s your greatness. That’s your “magic,” the message within you that the world needs to hear.
You’re a writer, so write. That’s what we do. Even when you don’t know what to write about, just start. Your message will come. I promise.
All you have to do is stop waiting, let go of fear, and keep writing.