I often feel this – that the biggest obstacle, the highest hurdle to overcome, sitting bang in the middle of my path, is ME. My doubts and fears. My insecurity and dread of rejection. The busy life I’ve constructed for myself – the jobs I need to do to keep everything spinning.
I seem to have an almost limitless ability to distract and divert myself from what I really want to be doing – which is exploring, having fun, diving into new experiences, both in ‘actual’ life and in my imagination.
Who put the brakes on that, and when and why? Life did, and I complied, and a series of adult lessons in how to survive gradually taught me to push those ideas aside, box up that hope and excitement and put it high up on top of a tall dusty cupboard.
In spite of years of wanting to write, create and play, I found the critical voices in my head were often stronger, and the assertions that I was wasting my time, should be getting on with something practical, that other people needed my attention more – combined with the whispers that crept up behind me, telling me I wasn’t any good anyway – always seemed to win through.
But here’s the thing. They’re ALL me. All of those thoughts and voices are coming from my brain, my emotional base. They may have been affected by comments from other people, from *actual* criticism, from teachers or parents, from a tentative submission coming back with a polite ‘no thanks’ – I didn’t start out with this lack of belief, it was absorbed from the world. But they’re mine now, like it or not, and so …
I have the power to deal with them.
I can choose to ignore the voice that says ‘You’ll never pay the mortgage by writing stories’ – and write them anyway. I can stop picking at the scab of that rejection, and actually tackle the comments that came with it, to make my work better. I can stop worrying about being the perfect mother who’s always done the ironing and whose kids have immaculately tidy bedrooms (which is never going to happen), and decide to #FuckTheLaundry and prioritise myself over domestics. I can switch bloody Twitter off for an hour and do something that will lift my mood and my soul instead.
I can get out of my own way.
It’s not always that simple. Of course it’s not. But if I stop blaming the outside world, and circumstances, and start doing one or two positive things every now and then – going on an Artist Date, climbing a hill, visiting a gallery, listening to a choir singing in a church – at least I can start the ball rolling. As all good wannabe writers do, I always have a notebook with me, and I can take that anywhere. There are always fifteen minutes somewhere in every day, to step to one side, off the path of ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘can’t’. Fifteen minutes in which to forget about the List of Things That Are Really Important and have a bit of a play with a thought or idea. Just dip in, to start with, then maybe the visits will get a bit longer. That thought may not seem important or life-changing to start with, but it might grow into something really fabulous and exciting. And as the habit forms, it won’t just be doing something different: it’ll be putting aside time for writing, for developing those ideas, and for expressing them because I believe I can and should be doing so. That’s when the self-belief starts to kick in. The main thing is, it’s down to me to make that choice.
Choose fun. Choose play. Choose dreams.
When you put it like that, it’s quite easy to step off the path and out of your own way.
You can get my (free!) guide on how to get out of your own way below: it’s full of suggestions and strategies to overcome fear, procrastination and domestic distraction!
If you’d like to give yourself a bigger creative boost, sign up for the Ten Day Writing Challenge. This is an invitation to try out a series of short, fun exercises that will help you to put yourself and your creativity first. It will encourage you to find those precious fifteen minutes a day in which you can step off the treadmill – and choose your dreams.