It’s no secret to followers of this blog or my twitter account (@nzstelter) that I write. I write daily. I write reports, briefings, proposals and correspondence for my day job. In my own time, I continue writing. I journal, write stories or blog posts. I invent stories for my daughter. Writing allows me to crystallise my thoughts. It’s always a thrill to feel the words come, to find the right expression, to capture the essence of fragile, fleeting emotion. But here’s the thing. I feel like a fraud.
You see, what I like to write most of all are stories. I have been getting more down on paper since being more honest with myself and others about my fiction writing goals as described in my post on writerly arrogance. But I have something to tell you. I have yet to finish a story. There, I said it. My writing folder is full of unfinished manuscripts. I thought it would make me feel better admitting that out loud: ‘Hi. My name is Nillu and I am addicted to unfinished manuscripts.’ No. Not better at all.
It’s that persistent foe, fear, of course. If I finish a manuscript, it would mean that it was ready for judging, not by my husband, but by an uninvested beta reader in the first instance, someone able to give real criticism. And then, after drafts 2, 3, 4, 5, it would be crunch time. Would the manuscript be sellable or will I end up with a drawer full of dreams? So, I guess what I have (sub)consciously been doing for a long while now is not finishing stories. Coward. Yes, you. You in the mirror.
Being the best version of yourself
A wise friend said to me recently that she believes we can actively create who we want to be. We can let go of the parts of us we don’t want anymore, and take on new characteristics, new skills. You say that this is compromising our authentic selves? I think it is determining who we want to be, keeping or adding elements until we are the best possible version of ourselves. The key is to keep moving forward.
Staying in a safe place is not always in our best interests. Sometimes we are chaining our potential and living half lives. So how do we embrace risks and move past fear? This is what I have found:
- Naming your fears and writing them down is the first step to beating them.
- Take small steps forward into the future you want to live and you will get there sooner than you thought. Try not to lose momentum.
- Accept that you can’t control everything and that failure teaches us how to be better.
- Don’t overthink. Trust that you will find the right tools, skills and support to face whatever comes your way.
- It is unhelpful to compare yourself to other people’s journeys.
- You are never too old/silly/fat/thin/gray to try something new. Push past your comfort zone.
For me, there’s only one thing for it, and that is to bite the bullet. I will be a braver fiction writer by the end of next week. Next week’s post, I have decided, will be the completed first draft of a short story I have been working on. No going back now. Have you ever felt like a fraud? What small improvements can you make to get closer to your goals?
‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ Maya Angelou
‘Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.’ T. S. Eliot