Sweatpants and a messy bun?
You're perfect. So cuddle up with some quick, light reads in our library. Choose by category or dive all in.
Self doubt feels like a constant presence, doesn't it? I mean it. Is. EVERYWHERE!
Like when you want to try a new hobby and that little voice tells you, you won't be any good at it. Or when you're finally given that big project at work—offered a chance to show your boss your stuff—there's a little voice in your head that likes to ruin it for you.
And there's a whole slew of things that voice/your brain can pick from, isn't there? Like that one time, in fifth grade, when you totally froze while you gave your first speech. Or that other time, at your first job, when you totally screwed up the register and your boss had to come bail you out in front of customers. You're just a constant failure, aren't you?
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
Truer words were never spoken.
Here we are – almost at a new year. I bet you’re making resolutions aren’t you? Or perhaps you’re just thinking of all those resolutions you made last year that you didn’t fulfill. You’re feeling like a bit fat failure. Next year you’ll be different. Next year things will happen that surround you with just the right circumstances.
who Is it just me or is flying terrifying to everyone?
It's just me. I know it is. Or rather, it's me and a few other people making up a very small percentage of individuals who fly and feel physically ill at the idea.
Driving though! Driving I have no problems with.
Now logistically, I realize how stupid this is. You have a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in a car accident. You have a 1 in millions chance of dying on a plane.
I've never been a very rational person, though. Ask anyone I've ever dated.
The emotional realm, people. That's where I tuck in at night.
Which explains why none of these stats keep me from jumping into my car on a daily basis and traipsing off to work. Why I don't become paralyzed with fear behind the wheel desperately needing to turn up the dial on some Beyonce so she can sing me through to my destination. Why I don't feel the need to curl up into the fetal position and cry when my car is pummeled with a windstorm.
Now...why is this?
While I'd like to chalk it up to my anxiety, the truth of the matter is that when I fly I turn over all control to two strangers that I may never see or even speak to. To all those pilots out there who feel that the public doesn't appreciate you–I appreciate you. Me. I do.
See, I'm one of those rare passengers who boards the plane with crazy eyes, scanning about desperately for my day's pilot as I cling to my bags and wonder if it's too late to turn around and run. It's as if my snap assessment of an individual in a pilot's uniform will hold any water when it comes to how well he or she can handle an Airbus in the event of an emergency (hint: it probably won't). Still...I want to see my pilot. I want them to say hello to me with a small twinkle in their eye, like they know what I'm thinking and want to reassure me it's all okay.
Usually they're in the cockpit going through checklists. I appreciate this too.
Control. It’s a pesky mother trucker. I have yet to meet another human who voluntarily gives up all control. Sure there are people who require less control. As a for instance, adrenaline junkies don’t look to lock their hands around the neck of control as they tumble from a plane with nothing more than a parachute to keep them from plunging to their doom. Still, there is probably something they seek to control (or that they wish they DIDN’T seek to control). Finances. Job. Significant others. This is how we are. We're human.
What happens when we lose control?
The fear seeps in.
Fear is the brain’s response to new things or things that go against our safety and well being. On the one hand, that’s really cool.
On the other hand, it’s a very primal response to very modern problems–and it really sucks. I mean...we all have problems. Varying levels of them, sure- but it's something humans have in common.
There are things we can do to deal with this fear response. And we have to, don’t we? The truth is that when we don’t face our fears, they start to build up until we're paralyzed by them. When I was younger I'd read books about old ladies who shut themselves into their homes, never again caring to see the light of day.
I didn’t understand this urge then. There were so many WORLDS out there to explore. There were so many PEOPLE to meet!
Now I understand the appeal. Now that life has roughed me up a bit.
Sometimes the very idea of stepping out of my front door is almost enough to overwhelm me. But I can’t let it. Frankly, neither can you. Or you can but...you shouldn't.
We don’t get to choose when we go or how we go (usually).
We only get to choose what to do with our time here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to book.
You know what feels really good?
Those everyday, ordinary situations we often find ourselves in.
As humans, we’re all creatures of habit. Even the business executive who eats tiny little nobodies like us for breakfast has a routine–it’s eating tiny little nobodies likes us for breakfast. Or perhaps it’s what he or she brushes their teeth with. Maybe it’s the circuits he or she utilizes at the gym after a tough day. Perhaps it’s the drink he or she orders at the bar for happy hour.
Most of us don’t even recognize what our routines are until they’ve been upset.
I certainly don’t. It’s why they’re called routines.
And while doing the same thing every single day can have some truly positive effects, so to can being pushed, pulled, or dragged out of our comfort zones.
Traveling is an excellent way to dismantle patterns. If you’ve ever traveled, you probably already know this to be true. That’s because when it comes to traveling, we open ourselves up to a lot of potential disasters. From late flights to strange cities to foreign languages, traveling to a new place can be a modern day adrenaline rush. That’s right–now you don’t have to go bungee jumping to get the blood pumping. Just book yourself a 44-minute layover in Salt Lake City.
Most of us cling to routines out of fear. We’re not necessarily conscious of it–the fear is deeply wired in our brains from either a nature or a nurturing experience. As we grow, we establish routines as a way of protecting ourselves from that thing that we fear. This can actually have an adverse reaction, causing us to miss opportunities. After all, it’s only natural to assume that we’re capable of controlling outcomes–it’s part of why we establish routines in the first place!
Guess what? Outcomes aren’t always preventable. Don't believe me? Whammo: examples.
Brushing your teeth twice a day won’t stop you from getting cavities.
Driving well won’t keep you from getting into an accident.
You could eat well all your life and still get cancer or heart disease.
You see where I'm going with this.
Ruts. Routines. They’re there to keep us safe and on target. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that there’s something wrong with your rut.
It’s also important to keep in mind that life isn’t meant to be lived within a bubble of safety. As humans, we’re meant to experience the world and to marvel at what it offers us. Getting out of our comfort zones forces us to use parts of our brain that otherwise lie idle, gathering dust.
The fact of the matter is, we’re all going to die someday.
And while I’ll be proud to look back at all of the roots I grew, I'm pretty sure that, that sparkle in my eye will be due to the fact that I seized opportunities to live.
“Write what you know.”
I can’t tell you how many times this advice has been lobbed at me. Sometimes I feel like it’s all I can do as a writer to fight my way through the phrase. First of all, I don’t feel like I know much of anything. Secondly, that which I do positively, absolutely, no doubt about it know…well, I find that I don’t bloom with desire to share it. Any of it. I know a lot about chocolate, but I don’t want to write about that. I know how it feels to be bullied as a teen, to suffer debilitating depression, but I don’t want to write about that, either. I know that there are people that can – that DO. I applaud them.
But that’s not me.
And frankly, dear Writer, it might not be YOU either.
If people only wrote what they knew, there are a lot of really amazing works that wouldn’t exist. Part of writing is exercising the imagination, thinking creatively, researching and learning and trying and failing and picking yourself up and starting again.
Maybe you suffered from disease. Perhaps you were abused. There’s a chance you lived despite horrible odds. Maybe you had your heart shattered into a million pieces by the person you thought was “The One.” If you want to share that story and you want to find and provide support for fellow survivors – bam. Write your story. I can’t wait to read it.
Maybe one or all of those things happened to you, but what you want to write about is a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins. Then write about THAT. Just because you don’t have personal experience dealing with a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it. Write what you want to write because that’s what is going to be passion-filled and beloved by your followers (or future followers, as it may be).
Perhaps your writer’s block is due to not giving yourself artistic license to write about whatever the hell you want.
Quit asking for permission.
Stop looking for a way to incorporate what you know into your story.
The phrase "just do it" comes to mind. Really, it comes down to making the time. When I'm writing, I try to have a dedicated daily word count. Say 2,000 words a day.
From there, I pick a time of day to write. My imagination is usually at top performance first thing in the morning. I set my alarm for 4 and usually manage to roll out of bed by 4:30. I make coffee, quiet my stomach with a breakfast burrito, and just write whatever comes to my head–forever trying to hit that 2,000 word goal by about 6AM when I have to get ready for big girl work. Sometimes the writing happens. Sometimes it doesn't. Either way, I have a new book in about 2-3 months.
1) For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT READ BACK THROUGH YOUR MANUSCRIPT WHILE STILL WRITING IT. You'll just delete the whole thing because you'll be dismayed by how terrible your imagination is.
2) Writing contests, like NaNoWriMo, can give you a real kick in the pants.
3) Seek help. Sure you can learn to do everything yourself, but that takes so much TIME. Throw some money at your problem and let an expert handle it. I've found everything from formatters to graphic designers on sites like Upwork. You won't make back the money for a while, especially if you go indie, but if your only goal is to publish, sites like this are a dream.
4) Invest in a software like Scrivner to organize the chaos that is your thoughts.
Best of luck! If you write a book, be sure to tell me about it.
Allison Janda is a self-published author. She has three dogs, one of which acts more like a cat.