When I was growing up, my family moved to a new city every couple of years. Almost always being the new girl in school meant that my books, and the characters within them, were my most treasured and constant friends.
During my teenage years, I wrote poetry in my head to help make sense of the world. Later I scribbled those poems on scraps of paper and posted them off to my favourite magazines. A couple were even published.
As I wandered the bush tracks and climbed the gum trees around our different homes, I began to dream of oneday becoming a writer. I imagined my future career and thought about how I could blend my love of thinking deeply and writing to help people who felt like outsiders, as I had often been.
In my mid-30s, I finally realised that dream when I started my own coaching business. Now I had the opportunity to support other people and a legitimate reason to share my writing with the world. While I was truly excited to do both those things, writing for others to read suddenly felt far less exhilarating than I had imagined it would be. In fact, it was utterly nerve-wracking. I seriously contemplated giving it away before I’d even begun.
I struggled to get the right words on the page and when I re-read what I’d written, it felt clunky and unnatural. By the time I drafted my first short article, I had six people on my mailing list (and two of them were family). I can still remember my nervousness before I hit send on that first newsletter. I was worried that my work was a long way from good enough and because I cared so much about writing, this small act felt more important than any other step I’d taken in my professional life.
I’ve come to learn that apprehension like this is usually present for all of us when we set out to do what we love, and it’s almost always the case when we embark on a new creative journey. When we share our creative work, we’re sharing from the deepest part of ourselves –– it’s no wonder we have moments of self-doubt.
This is the time when your inner critic’s voice becomes the loudest, cautioning you to be careful and sensible and not to make a fool of yourself. Your critic might tell you it’s safer not to try at all or at least to wait until you’ve taken another class or had another few hundred hours of practice.
The reality is that even with another qualification or a solid bank of hours, stepping over that line to put your work in the hands of other people, not just for the first time but maybe even every time, is likely to make you feel vulnerable and possibly even flawed.
The irony is that it’s those very imperfections, the very humanness of you, that will make you most relatable and real.
Over the years, I’ve found that it gets easier to hit the send button and there are also practices I’ve embraced that help to quieten my inner critic and keep me feeling grounded and calm.
Be yourself, as much as you can
When I first started writing, I wanted to come across as intelligent, so I used bigger words and wrote more formally than I would ever speak. As I became more confident, I began to find my natural voice which made writing less effort and I suspect, easier for my audience to read. It has helped to remember that no matter how well I write, some people are still not going to like my work. I stopped trying to please everyone and instead, started writing from the heart.
Remember your purpose
If you haven’t taken the time to work out your ‘why’, do this now. What is the difference you want to make most in the world with your creative work? Stay true to this and always keep it top of mind. When you find yourself questioning whether to continue or having moments of self-doubt, come back to your sense of purpose.
Go gently, give yourself time
Take the pressure off. You don’t need to hurry. You can take as long as you need. If you’re under pressure to make an income from your creative work, it’s ok to take a part-time role while you build confidence with your creative process.
Be mindful, be present
Take a deep breath and come back to this present moment. Be grateful for what you’ve already achieved. Remember to celebrate the small milestones and remind yourself that the journey is often more important than the destination.
Be inspired by others, not deflated
Even when you’re on the right track, there will always be someone further along the path than you. Try not to compare yourself with others (as difficult as this can be at times) but rather, allow the people you admire to be your inspiration.
Reconnect with the real world
It can sometimes be addictive and alluring to spend time in the online world, but it may not be the place where you’ll feel most grounded. Block out chunks of time every day to be offline. Reconnect with your ‘real life’ relationships and spend time in nature to clear your head and to remind you that there’s so much in this world to be thankful for.