“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain
So what risky thing have you done today? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Don’t worry if something didn’t immediately spring to mind. The First Lady was advising that we take a very active approach to risk taking in our lives. Push your self a little bit beyond merely standing up to challenges as they come to you.
Even if actively seeking out a risky endeavor everyday seems like too big of a bite, there is a lot to be said for putting yourself through this exercise on a regular basis. If you don’t put yourself out there, there is a good chance that you are not going to get much back from the world. Only you know what sends your heart racing. What makes your belly flip-flop and sweat trickle down your brow?
One of the biggest risks that I have taken recently was to start this blog. I am an intensely private person and the idea that I would put my experiences as a new writer into the public forum was terrifying. For the longest time, my writing has been just for me. But now, I am putting bits and pieces out into the vast world that is the web.
So, to move forward and grow, we must put ourselves out there. Since I made the commitment to a writing lifestyle a little over a year ago, I have continuously looked for ways to “sail away from the safe harbor” as Twain put it. I have started following and commenting on other blogs, taken writing courses and had my work “graded”, entered writing contests and joined a critique group. All of these things are the first steps of putting myself out there and transforming from recreational writing to a writing career.
Each of these steps always brings that internal commentary. What if someone doesn’t like my work? What if my work just isn’t good? What if something I write gets rejected? What If a giant piece of space debris smashes into my bedroom while I’m asleep? (OK, it can get a little ridiculous, right?) And you know what? All of that has happened (except, the space debris), and I am still here, and a little bit better. I would even dare to say that in the last year, I have become a lot better.
As a writer, there are so many points in the process that feel risky. Maybe it’s mobilizing yourself to get those first words out of your head, onto paper (or screen) and out into the real world. Perhaps even the notion of owning the title of writer feels foreign and intimidating. However, we owe it to ourselves to see what will happen, because we will get better when we take risks. It will hurt and there may be tears and a little bloodshed, but this is the path to greatness.
What was the last thing you did to put yourself out there?