“Why don’t you enter the Pole Theatre competition?” I’m not good enough.
That was my first thought: I’m not a good enough pole dancer to enter this prestigious competition and win. I don’t have the polished skills, the flexibility, the gymnastic or dance background that pole dancing competition winners seem to have.
I’m not ready—my second thought. Who am I to enter a well-known comp?
The same thoughts pop into my head every time I think about writing a new book. Or submitting an essay. Or even sending an email to my list!
You might not be a pole dancer or an athlete, but every writer I have ever known or read about has had similar thoughts about writing: that we’re not good enough writers, that we don’t know enough about our subject, that we don’t really know what we’re talking about.
That we’re not ready.
Look, I’m not going to blow smoke up your arse and pretend everything’s perfect.
Maybe you’re not a great writer. Maybe you’re not good enough. Maybe you have a lot to learn about storytelling and what works for readers. Maybe you don’t know enough to write that book.
Maybe you’re not ready.
I don’t know.
I don’t know your history or your writing.
But I do know there’s a word missing from the end of those statements:
The thing about all this is that it’s true of all of us. Everyone. None of us are as good as we want to be! None of us knows enough to know it all.
None of us is ever ready.
The difference between the published writers and the unpublished ones is the authors don’t let those truths stop them from writing anyway.
We can’t become as good as we want to be without doing the thing. We can’t know where our gaps are until we uncover them. And maybe we won’t ever feel ready.
We have to write anyway and we have to publish some of it, because practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent—and we can’t know what’s good writing until we allow other people to read it. We need feedback, critique, harsh truths and praise, so we begin to understand what we’re good at and where we need help.
If we’re too afraid to try, we remain in darkness and fear and woe.
Working out who we are, what our voices sound like, what our style is—that’s where the joy lies. It’s in letting go of outcomes and creating for the sake of it; experimenting, trying on different styles and tones and quirks, seeing what suits us best.
Joy is in noticing hey, there’s a gap in my knowledge here—what’s missing? Then learning it.
Joy is in spotting a crack and wondering if maybe, just maybe, we might be wrong about that thing? Maybe a different perspective will help us see things more clearly.
Writing when we’re not good enough, when we don’t know enough, and when we’re not ready is the only way to grow and to find out who we are when all the shiny surfaces and comparisons are stripped away.
We’re never going to be the same as that person we admire.
In most pole dancing competitions, I wasn’t going to win, or even distinguish myself much. Which is why my instructor suggested that I enter Pole Theatre because it’s not about the tricks, it’s about the performance (the clue’s in the name). And one thing I am good at is telling a story, and being funny while I do it.
So, the comedy category it was.
I had so much fun creating that routine. I laughed so much with my human props. I had a whale of a time with my instructor, who pushed me to learn and perfect a couple of moves I couldn’t do before. I created something hilarious and weird and totally me.
And when it came time to perform—I knocked it out the park and won.
But it wasn’t the winning for me that was the real achievement (although it was AWESOME); it was entering and getting on stage in the first place.
Doing the thing.
It takes courage—real courage—to stand up and do it.
There’s a lot of guff written about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and I get that. I get it; we can’t stay comfortable and familiar the whole time because we don’t grow there. But there’s a lot of privilege in escaping the everyday, in pushing aside all else to focus on the book.
We hear about having the courage to focus 100% on the thing we want…
What I’ve found, though, is it’s not time and focus (and let’s not even talk about adhd brains here)… There’s always a little writing time available to us if that is truly what we want to do. Time isn’t the problem.
The real courage comes from sitting in that discomfort of: am I good enough to write this?
Will it work?
Will I be proud of what I’m doing?
And the truth is: You don’t know. I don’t know, and I’m not gonna lie to you and say I’m sure your book will break records; that’s not the point.
Until we try, until we put our work out there, we have no idea if we can do this—and that’s where the courage comes from.
Here’s another truth: We do not have to do this alone. In fact, I believe it’s impossible to do this alone; we all have people who have our backs and help us write more, better, faster, stronger. There is no glory in struggling on alone.
This is why I’m here; it’s what I do.
I take your hand and say, I see you. I hear you. I understand that you’re scared; I am, too. But I know that you can do this. I know you can create something you’re proud of. Let’s go.
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