I was working on a pitch for a guest post yesterday (cross your finger for me that it gets accepted) and within that post one of the things that I advised readers to do was to think of all of the things that they are afraid to do, or things that they said at one point in time that they would never do and still haven’t done yet, and make it a goal this year to go out and start doing those things.
It dawned on me this morning in talking with a friend about needing to broaden my horizons and experience different places that I needed to do the same thing. There are quite a few things that I always said that I would never do, or that I thought that I couldn’t do for one reason or another, and I think that I am going to take my own advice and start doing them. Now they may not be big things (at least not yet, have to work my way up to those) but there is nothing wrong with starting small because even baby steps allow you to move forward.
There are a lot of you out there who have those little things that you always said you wouldn’t do (ex. go on a boat, go hiking, learn how to swim, etc.) but what if you going out and doing those things, even if it was just one time, is the experience you’ve been missing from your life. I mean if it’s something that you discover you don’t like then you never have to do it again but at least you can say you’ve done it. However, if it happens to be something that you find out that you love to do then it can open up a whole new world of experiences for you.
When I joined a gym (one thing I said I was never going to feel comfortable doing) a few years ago I said I was not a runner and I would never use the treadmill because I didn’t like to run (mind you I also said I didn’t like to exercise either but I love it) but when I got on it I first discovered that I could run and then, surprise of all surprises, I actually liked to run. Now how would I have ever known that if I had never just gone ahead and done it. Now I love to run (still working on the running outside part—maybe that’s something I’ll do this year) and I miss it if I don’t get to.
So take some time and make a list of all of the things that you have been ruling out thus far. Make some plans to maybe not rule them out just yet. Allow yourself to be open to the new experiences, especially the ones that scare you. Those are the ones that you will learn from the most. Have a blessed and exploratory weekend!
Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely hate taking pictures. Not taking pictures from behind the camera lens but to actually be in front of the camera lens itself. So I’ve been on a weight loss journey for the last few years now and I committed to this journey no matter how long it took for me to get to a place of being healthy (and yes thinner too) and happy. I also knew that I couldn’t do this quickly and rapidly because I had tried that before and it didn’t stick and that I didn’t want to lose weight surgically (not knocking it for anyone who has had weight loss surgery—just not for me) but rather naturally and that meant it was going to have to be slow and steady.
I’ll admit that at certain periods throughout the process it has been slower than others and of course there’s moments where you reach a new stage and you plateau. However, I have managed to remain vigilant and have lost well over a hundred pounds but yet I still don’t like taking pictures. My best friend asked me once if I had any before pictures so that I had something to compare things to because I constantly have an issue of looking in the mirror and thinking that nothing has changed regardless of the fact that my clothes have gotten looser on me and my face is visibly different, but as I stated before I have never liked to take pictures with me in them.
So today when I went to the gym (knowing that I had taken a picture for the membership card when I first joined the gym) I asked if I could take a new picture for my membership card. When she took the picture and printed out the new card I took out my old one and looked at the side by side view (you can see it below-sorry it’s not a clearer picture) and the difference was, in my opinion, very noticeable. I was ecstatic and overjoyed and of course I went and showed everyone in the gym my before and after and one lady even pointed to the before picture and asked who it was. That motivated me even more.
What does any of this have to do with my writing you might ask? Well you know they say a picture is worth a thousand words and in today’s case my before and after pictures made a lot of things clearer to me. That before picture was not a happy woman, perhaps a woman who faked it with some success, but definitely not happy. But the after picture was a happy person, a more confident person, a more secure person, and a healthier person. It in many ways mirrors my journey of writing that I spoke of with such frustration in yesterday’s post.
My writing career, years ago, around the time of that before picture, was existent (barely) but it wasn’t moving in any direction. It had gotten off the ground (maybe about a couple inches) but it hadn’t took off, it hadn’t even gotten midway, it was just stagnant hovering somewhere around the point of the wheels of a plane being an inch off the ground but not yet ready to take off. It has been a slow journey in that regard as well but unlike with my weight loss journey where I had succumb to the reality that slow and steady is better for me and in the end will garner more promising results, more lasting results, with writing I had wanted it to be a rush to take off. I hadn’t thought about the fact that if slow and steady can win the race in one area, why wouldn’t it be the right track in the other area as well.
My writing career is still definitely not where I want it to be but it is definitely beginning to take shape and it seems to be ready to take off. Just as with my before and after pictures in my road to a healthier and happier version of myself, I couldn’t see the progress before and it appeared as if nothing was really happening, my writing career has its before and after points as well. My writing career, my writing style, has changed and taken different shapes right along with me and looking at the body of my work over the years I can see the progress now. I can see the fruits of all of my hard work and I am just as overjoyed at that as I was to look at my before and after pictures from this morning.
Sometimes to see the bigger picture, you really do have to capture it in a picture. A picture doesn’t just show the physical changes in a person but sometimes you can see a whole story in the person you are looking at in that picture, the emotional changes, the mental changes, the career changes. So what would your before and after of you look like? What story would it tell to the world?
Every day is not going to be the most productive day like I usually imagine it to be when I get out of bed in the morning. I imagine that after I take my daughter to school, go do my workout at the gym, come home to shower and get dressed that I would be ready to load myself with a cup (or two) of coffee and get straight to work. However, it does not always work out that way.
A part of me becoming more focused on my goals and turning my dreams into reality is to make sure that I am more productive everyday. Sometimes that calls for me to begin to realize that productivity does not just lie in the work that’s being done in a manner that can be always be seen.
Even if at the end of a day I don’t have a thousand words on my novel written, or I don’t write two or three query letters to be sent out, or I haven’t started that outline for the next novel that I was supposed to start the other day, or I don’t have the most prolific words for my blog post, it doesn’t mean that work is not being done.
A lot of times a writer’s work begins in their minds first. An idea formulates and is planned out in extensive detail within the walls of your mind and it takes life all before you even take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Research is also a big part of a writer’s world because that aspect of any project is extremely important and can not be avoided.
So on days like today, when I start to begin beating myself up for not having a finished query letter to send off, or for not being words closer to completing my novel, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t productive. I do an enormous amount of my work in my head, and another large part is done in my research efforts. I can’t allow myself to feel like I’m not getting things done just because I don’t have a finished product. Some days my mind just needs to do the work within its walls and that’s okay.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
-1 Peter 5:8
I had one of those deep thought provoking conversations today at the gym with the guy that’s training me. It always seems like we have those conversation exactly when my mind is filling itself with a bunch of doubt and lack of motivation. As the conversation went on and I shared more of my doubts (fears really) he asked me a very important question that stumped me for a minute but was one that I think all of us self-doubters need to ask ourselves. He asked me ‘Why are you letting Satan steal what’s yours?’
He went on to say that with all of the gifts that I possess and the purpose that I was placed here on this earth to do I am in line for so many great successes and abundant rewards, but every time I let that doubt settle in my mind I am allowing Satan to steal what’s mine, little by little. I had never thought about my many bouts of doubt that way. He’s right. I never realized that that was what I was doing. I never knew that I was giving the Devil that much authority over the journey of my life, and inevitably, over the destination that I arrive at.
I feel like I do follow the guidance of God on my path but it didn’t dawn on me that those obstacles and bumps on the road that I keep hitting were the Devil capitalizing on my own self-doubt. I don’t always doubt myself but on the days that I do I seem to be continuously leaving a crack in the door for Satan to work his way in there and steal my successes and my rewards, leaving me feeling more doubtful than ever. I get what the Devil is trying to do now and I don’t plan on leaving that door open anymore, not even a tiny crack.
I know what I’m worth and I know what my words are worth. I know that God has given me a purpose to fulfill and I can not continue to doubt what he has told me I should be doing. If he didn’t feel that I was up to the task, he wouldn’t have constructed the task solely for me. It is nothing but the Devil that has me doubting myself and I admit that he was been really busy with me lately. Well the Devil can continue to be busy, but just not with me, not anymore.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
–Matthew 14: 22-33
I have so much trouble with investing in myself, in particular, in the business that I am trying to build up. It seems every time that I actually take the initiative and have the faith to go ahead and make an investment towards getting my business firmly off the ground, I turn around and face the almost immediate needs of my daughter. Now of course children need things all the time and I always make sure she’s taken care of first. However, it seems like just when I’m at a point where she appears to have everything she needs for the time being and I feel I can actually put money into myself (my writing career) then a sudden need arises and I start to feel guilty that I’ve just put this money into me and not into her where it clearly needed to go.
Now Ms. L. lectured me about feeling guilty last night and reminded me that taking care of me first sometimes is the best way to take care of her all the time but it doesn’t always feel that way. When I was in the gym this morning the guys were having a specific conversation that seemed to be perfect for the guilt (or possible lack of faith) that I was feeling. Oddly enough, I almost did not go to the gym this morning because it was raining and I had planned on using the rain as my excuse to stay home. But God had other plans and made sure that I went anyway.
They were talking about the story from the bible of when Jesus walked on water and he walked out to the boat with his disciples in it and Peter told Jesus that if it was in fact him to call him over to him, and he went and Peter was walking to Jesus on water. He was doing fine until he felt a gust of wind and a burst of fear and lost sight of Jesus and his faith in him and he began to sink into the water, drowing. He cried out for Jesus to save him and Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” If Peter had felt the wind and still had faith and kept his eyes on Jesus he would have been fine. If he had just kept his faith and had not doubted, not even for a second, he would not have felt the fear of drowning.
I feel that story not only applies to what I am dealing with, but also anyone out there who is struggling with their faith in what it is they are trying to do, what they may be called to do. If I were to stop taking my focus off of God and his plans for me, if I were to stop letting every little gusts of wind throw me off and make me afraid, I could only imagine how far I might be in my journey by now. I could imagine the voice of God in my head as he talks to me saying something to the effect of ‘If you would just have faith in what I have planned for you and follow through without getting afraid then you could be halfway there by now’. If he did say that, he would one hundred percent right.
I don’t always have a good track record of trusting in the unknown and the things that have no guarantees. It’s not that I don’t have faith in God and his plan for me, it’s that my nature to worry about all of the what ifs has a tendency to take me off the faith driven path (just a bit). It’s something that I struggle with and am constantly working on, not taking my eyes off of God and his plans for me, learning not to worry about all of the what ifs that pop into my head and knowing that God has never let me down yet and wouldn’t start now. I struggle with not having the comfort of knowing what’s waiting for me on the other side. The truth is that I have to realize that it’s not always for me to know, but for me to trust in the guidance of God and know that he would never steer me wrong.
Oftentimes we tend to get caught up in the worrying of it all that we forget to just let go and have some faith. Whatever is going to happen, whatever God is going to do, will be one anyway, whether it’s what we expected or not. We can’t be so riddled with doubt in ourselves and in his plans that we never even step out of the boat. We’ve got to have faith and know that God would not lead us on the water only to let us drown.
“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”
When I was at the gym this morning I overheard a basketball coach giving two of the young boys that he coaches a lecture on practicing their skills. He was telling them that they can’t just expect to become pro-basketball players without actually putting in the work to get there. He was saying to his assistant coach that children just expect to wake up and automatically become what they want to be without putting in the time, the effort and the hard work it takes to get there. I listened on as he spoke to them and I saw the young boys in there beginning to practice as he was lecturing them so clearly some of what he was saying was starting to sink in.
As I continued to listen on I thought about the fact that it isn’t always just children who forget that things that are worth having, you have to work hard for. Sometimes we adults forget that too. We sometimes rely so heavily on the natural talent that we have to do whatever gifts we were blessed with that we forget that even with natural talent, there is skill involved and those skills have to be continuously exercised. If we don’t practice our skill set, that talent can eventually fade away.
We can’t continue to take our skills for granted and believe that no matter what they will always be there for us to use when we get around to putting in the hard work that it takes to make them work for us. Basketball players don’t just wake up able to play basketball. Sure they may have had the natural talent to shoot a ball in a hoop when they were younger but there would have been no chance of them making it to the NBA without continuously practicing that skill. Had they not put in the hard work those skills would have just faded away.
I’ve heard it said so many times by writers or singers or actors or athletes that it comes natural to them, and yet they still profess how much hard work their natural talent takes. They take workshops to keep their words fresh, they have vocal coaches to keep their voice in tact, or they take ongoing acting classes to keep their acting skills on point, or they practice on a regular basis to keep their reflexes sharp. Yes they may have this natural ability but they work hard at maintaining those abilities so that they don’t lose them.
The same goes for anyone else out there trying to become successful at whatever it is that comes natural to them. We all have something that we were born to do. Now we just have to put in the hard work at practicing those skills to develop the success that we know we want. So take some time to think whether or not you are really putting in the practice at making your skills work for you. If you know you could be doing more then start now. Practice equals progression!
“I’m not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat my last performance.”
I have never considered myself to be competitive. I was never an athlete in school. I never competed in anything academically; well not unless you count the elementary class spelling bees. I was never one to really fight for what I wanted when I was younger. I guess I just didn’t really have any fight in me then and I would just step aside if I thought someone could do something better than me. To be honest I didn’t have fight in me until the last several years.
So when someone at my gym said to me today that they knew I could do something that another person was doing (which I kept telling him I couldn’t) simply because he knew I would never let someone else outdo me, I was a little taken aback to realize that he was right. It’s funny but I didn’t even realize that somewhere along the way I had become competitive (but not in a bad way). When I see someone doing something (at least when it comes to physical activity in the gym) that I have convinced myself in my mind that I should be able to do I can’t seem to get rid of the urge to prove that I can actually do it. I think that I am mostly competitive with myself because I find myself trying to beat my own records and my own accomplishments, convinced that I can do better then what I did before.
Now if I only took that competitive spirit that I have in the gym and infused it into my writing. I mean it wouldn’t exactly be the same sort of competition because there’s no strenuous physical activity involved. But maybe if I can keep in my mind when I see someone in my inner circle doing something that I know I should be out there doing, that there’s no reason that I can’t do that. In writing perhaps I just need to stay in good competition with myself, trying on a continuous basis to outdo my own efforts.
I know that some people might think that being competitive is a bad thing, and I suppose it can be if you are not correctly directing your competitive nature to the right places in your life. You shouldn’t be in competition with the person next to you because they aren’t the ones standing in your way. You not trying to become better each time you achieve something is what stands in your way. Sometimes you have to compete with your own best efforts because it can make you a better person and better at your craft or talent. Until tomorrow…There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, as long as you don’t lose sight of what you are competing for.