by Julie, enjoying a few days on Cape Cod
As part of my life coaching practice, I’ve been taking a class on career transition coaching. This week the conversation was about doing the research to know what a new career entails. The facilitator called on me. “Julie’s a writer. Julie, what does someone need to start writing?”
What she was looking for was a list like this. Space to write, a laptop, classes to help learn, time, professional support.
But my answer, or the answer I would have given in another context, is this. What you need in order to write is the deep belief that it’s possible for you to do, and the determination to figure it out.
Wanting to write a book, or run a marathon, or climb a mountain, or perform, or create, or bake a show-stopper of a cake–all of these creative pursuits start with a “wouldn’t it be interesting if” or “I’d love to do that” idea. From there, many people let the dream die because it’s hard to figure out the path. Or the path itself is difficult. But taking that leap of faith, to believe that it’s possible to achieve the goal, that’s one of the secret ingredients.
Believing that everything is possible, and working to figure out a path, isn’t a guarantee you’ll find a publisher, or get a medal, or win an award. But the point is that you’re opening yourself up to the possibilities that the pursuit offers. And you’re taking action. Which is much better than wondering if you could have done it.
At the end of October, I decided to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because Sisters in Crime was sponsoring it. I’d done NaNo twice before, and had barely clocked 3,000 words each time. Would it be possible to write 50,000 words in one month, I wondered. I decided two things. First, to show up every day. The second thing I decided was to really try. As it turns out, it was possible. Last week I added more words, and finished the very, very rough first draft of Garden Squad #5.
Now, of course, there are very real barriers in front of folks who try to do what feels impossible. I’ve found that a mindset shift has helped me with some of my own barriers. Rather than waiting to celebrate the finishing, I celebrate the doing. Right now I’m taking a painting class online. The only way I can enjoy the process is to show up, watch the lesson, and have fun trying. My painting is not likely to be a masterpiece, especially with the way things are going right now. But by celebrating the doing, I embrace what is possible, and keep going. I’m not waiting for the future to happen, I’m celebrating the now.
2020 has been a time of reflection for many of us. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, but I suspect that as people look toward 2021, they’re thinking about what matters, and adding some “I’ve always wanted to” items to their list. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to rethink my goals, and reconsider what I didn’t think was possible. Hence the canvas in my living room, full of possibility.
Friends, have you done something that you once felt was impossible? What gave you the courage to start?
What a beautiful reflective essay, Julie. I think another aspect is you really have to want the end goal. When I was writing my first book, the natural pessimist I live with said, in a dire tone, “You know it’s really hard to get published.” I answered, “Somebody’s going to get published, and it might as well be me.”
Years ago I was a regular runner, nearly daily. I found a running partner. We entered a 10k and finished. Then we entered a ten mile race, trained for it, and finished, despite it being held on a really hot, humid August evening. There we saw a flyer for a half marathon in the fall, looked at each other and said, “Why not?” And after we slogged through 13.1 miles, one of us said, “Looks like Boston is next.” So I never set out to do the impossible, but I worked up to it. We trained hard that winter. I ran a three-state twenty-miler (Kittery, Maine to Salisbury, MA). We got charity numbers so we were official in the Boston Marathon. And we finished! We made it possible.
My running journey got me to a half, and the training that took was such an inspiration. John Bingham, a runner, calls it the courage to start.
You are so right. You have to picture the goal, and then want it.
I remember long ago telling someone that I can’t guarantee I’ll do a great job, but I can promise I’ll show up and do my best. This wasn’t regarding writing, but it could be. I show up and do the work. The only surefire path to failure is to stop trying.
I so agree. Though stopping because you’ve changed paths is possible. As long as you’re moving mindfully, you’re doing what needs to be done.
Thank you. This was just what I needed to read/hear today. Cheers!
I’m so glad!
Thank you. Just the message I needed from the Universe today. Cheers!
Thanks! The Universe helped me with the message yesterday.
As a person that doesn’t adjust to big change easily, deciding to sell out and move after so many years seemed impossible to even think about. I found that after I had a written plan on what had to be done to make it a success and then finding means to make those steps actually come about and to run smoothly that it all went off like clockwork. I think you have to approach uneasy situations with knowledge meaning thought through and not have just run into the burning building attitude. Then it all comes down to taking that first step in faith that all will be good with the back up thought that there’s no problem that can be thrown in along the way that can’t be worked out. At least that’s what worked for me and it made the decision and the actual move one of the best things I’ve ever done.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
The plan is crucial, isn’t it? And the patience to see it through. Moving is such a great example. An metaphor.
“Celebrating the now.” I love that.
I wasn’t sure I could earn a Black belt or finish writing a book. But as you said, you have to start and persevere. After a while, it stops feeling so impossible.
A black belt? How cool is that? You’ll need to show me some moves at the next in person.
Wonderful post, Julie.
Finishing my first novel was like that. I was afraid to seriously start writing. That meant I had skin in the game. I did it with Nano. I showed up every day and know what – I finished that book and Henery Press published it.
I found that admitting i wanted to write was one of my hardest steps.
And you’re a NaNo success! How great is that?
I’ve not completed another since. I have always been at the wrong place in the novel, but I know it’s possible!
Love this, Julie! I did NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote 50,004 words. I couldn’t believe I did it. And while I had a lot of doubts and said on Twitter, I don’t think I can do this. Someone wrote back and said, “But what if you can?” I kept that in mind for the rest of the month and was determined to finish.
But what if you cam? What a great mantra.
I’m so proud of you. We’re ahead of the game on these books. When has that ever happened?
It’s never too late to try something new! Two of my friends decided to take online classes in different fields this year. They’re both enjoying them. Whether they pursue actual careers with their new knowledge remains to be seen, but I think it’s great they’re exploring new things.
I used to work at a university and one of my favorite things was taking extension school classes for $40. I love stretching my brain.
Oh Julie, I am so happy for your getting book #5 with the Garden Squad “fleshed out” and ready to go back over and edit or whatever needs doing. Congrats on all those words! I have almost finished one year of Spanish lessons and feel myself at least a bit better at comprehension. I probably will not ever speak perfect Spanish, but I have stretched my mind and am learning…how can that be a bad thing? It is hard to get into the habit of taking a course online, but the benefits are well worth it, for me anyway. Right now my nonfiction book is: The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore by Robert Finch. 😉
That book sounds perfect for me! And congratulations on the Spanish classes. Earlier in the year I tried to get back to French. You’ve inspired me to try again. Stretching our minds is the best type of exercise.
Wonderful, inspirational post! I’ve been struggling to learn Portuguese since #1 son announced that he wants to move there. Never having had an ear for languages, I truly admire people that have mastered more than their own native tongues. I can read the language, but speaking it? and with grammatical accuracy? Not happenin’ anytime soon. But, I have found that showing up everyday and choosing the lesson sections that focus on the spoken rather than written skills, helps quite a bit. Small victories, put together day after day, amount to more than never trying, but it does take commitment.
The effort is so appreciated by folks as well. What a wonderful way to exercise your mind.
When my friend Carol and I founded WebCT, which was then called Ultimate Learning Technologies, there was nothing on university websites but the weekly cafeteria menu and sports schedules. We thought the internet could be a tool for learning. It seemed impossible many times along the way, convincing investors, developing the vision and technology, hiring teams, integrating other companies and cultures, but now you wouldn’t operate a college without what we developed. As I watch my granddaughter, son and daughter learning and teaching online through this pandemic, all using technologies that are direct descendants of what we invented, and knowing I was one of maybe 50 people present at the birth of the industry–it is awesome to me and amazing that we did it.
An amazing legacy, Barb!
Great perspective and lots to think about. I needed this today. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Thought of you and your mud runs.
It was certainly true when I signed on to do my first 10K mud run. And when I signed up for a half marathon.
At 27. I decided to go to college. I had real doubts if I was up to college level work, but I got a mailing from the college, so I went for an interview. I had to go at night since I was working full time and had a family. The evening dean was so welcoming and encouraging. It took me 9 1/2 years, but I was graduated magna cum laude. Yes, just about anything is possible if you believe in yourself and work your butt off.
What an inspiring story!
When my best friend came home from the hospital minus her left butt cheek, I was able to step up in a way I would never have imagined I could. Taking care of her, changing dressings, cleaning, shopping and still working full time was challenging to say the least. I will always hug what I accomplishment to myself. Whenever I think, oh I can’t do that, I remember what I did and did pretty well. The only price I paid was I went from salt & pepper to completely white hair. Stress will do that to you. Need is a great motivator.
Need, and love, are both great motivators. The author Glennon Doyle has a phrase, “We can do hard things” that sums up your ability to step up for your friend.
Hey! I’m HERE. Truly, growing up in the 50s, I really thought we would have managed to incinerate the planet before Y2K. But I kept plugging along anyway.
Comments are closed.