What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What’s worth doing, even if you fail?
I’ve been asking myself these questions all week. Sheryl Sandberg poses the first one in Lean In. Brene Brown poses the second in Daring Greatly.
For me, the answer to both questions is clear: Write.
Here’s the problem: I’m a person with a short attention span. I have one big idea a week. I get all excited about it. I tell my husband about it. And then, inevitably, I poke a hole in my big idea, and it deflates. Within forty-eight hours of a Eureka! moment, my big idea doesn’t seem so big.
But writing is different. Writing is the balloon that never pops. The act of writing always brings me happiness and satisfaction. It doesn’t matter if I write for myself or share my writing with others. It always feels good. It can be frustrating and deflating too, but I keep going back for more.
Well, alright, writing is my big idea. Now what? Where do I go from here? What happens if I stray from my big idea? I get lost, and I come back to it.
When I think of not writing, or periods in my life when I have strayed from writing, I think of this poem:
Harlem [Dream Deferred]
By Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I know what you’re thinking. What’s the problem? Just keep writing. But here’s the thing with writing: it’s hard. Writing is a craft. It requires study. It requires time, discipline, and patience. I’m not whining, I’m just intimidated and insecure. What if I get lazy or lose interest? What if I wimp out? What if I write nothing but crap for the rest of my life?
Well, I suppose there are worse things. Apart from loving the people I care most about in this world, there is nothing I’d rather do than write.
I once read an interview in the New York Times Magazine with Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that inspired the HBO show, “True Blood”. When asked to give advice to aspiring writers, she replied: “For any writers at all, read everything you can and then put your butt in the chair and write. That’s all there is to it.” Harris is telling us that writers have to roll up their sleeves and get to work. It’s not easy, and there are no short cuts. Isn’t that what it takes to follow any dream?
So, here’s the deal: Follow your dream, but don’t expect it to come easy. Work hard. Lean in. Dare greatly. When you fail – and you will fail – get up, dust yourself off, and get back to work.
I make it sound easy, don’t I? Time to sit my butt in the chair and write.