I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve held myself back from sharing something because I was afraid.
I didn’t start my website until two weeks ago because I was worried I didn’t know how. I didn’t start my mailing list until a month ago because I didn’t think I had anything worth emailing to people. I held off from creating my YouTube channel because I was afraid of being on camera.
And only goodness knows how many times I’ve deleted drafts or left them, abandoned and orphaned, in my draft folder, too scared to let them see the light of day, too concerned that other people might disagree or find mistakes, too nervous to stand by what I think.
You know what all that caution got me? Absolutely nothing.
Let me be clear: I’m not flawless. My videos aren’t perfect. Sometimes I only find the typos in my newsletters hours after I’ve sent them out. My articles still don’t hit all the right notes I want them to. My website has just two posts on it.
But, flawless or not, I did it. I made the leap, I stuck my neck on the chopping block and found out there wasn’t actually a chopping block there at all. Nobody was out to get me. I didn’t burn up into a cinder because I’d messed up on the first go.
All that happened was that my first try wasn’t perfect — and it was so much easier to make that second attempt.
I’ve written before about how I wish I’d started all those things sooner — not just because I would be further along the path to success, but because I’ve learned things about myself. I learned that I love helping others when it comes to writing, I learned I like making video content, and I learned that I do have things worth saying.
I wanted to be a blogger for years before I started. I had so many half-finished story ideas, ready to be unleashed on the world. You know what held me back?
I didn’t think I had anything truly worth saying.
I thought I had too much to lose.
I really believed that putting out nothing was better than putting out something that wasn’t perfect.
You might think you have nothing worth saying.
A lot of people, myself included, struggle with the concept that we have things worth saying. Even this story — it’s been written before, by somebody better at writing than me, with a more authentic lived experience than me. Who gave me the right to go ahead and write my own take on it?
It took me far too long to realize that my unique viewpoint is what makes my voice valuable.
Although every story has already been written, yours hasn’t. Your untold perspective is valuable because it comes from just you. Nobody else has lived your struggles, your successes, your life — and that makes your writing priceless. Take any topic, even something as popular as writing tips, or how to be successful, or making yourself happy. Write about it. And see just how many people resonate with your personal experiences.
You have so many stories worth telling, ones nobody has told yet. Don’t wait any longer to share them.
You might think you have too much to lose.
“What if,” I mused to myself around two years ago, “what if I start writing a blog and nobody cares about it? I’ll have lost time and effort, and for what?”
I genuinely believed it was better until I could write something that was a guaranteed blockbuster, destined to land me on headlines and go instantly viral on Twitter.
Reader, I was wrong.
First of all, I still haven’t managed to do that. Second of all, I don’t think it’s possible to do that — on anyone’s first try. Waiting for that blockbuster was an exercise in futility. Lastly, and most importantly, I was focused on net loss. I needed to stop thinking about potential loses and focus on what I stood to gain.
What if I was unsuccessful? What if nobody liked my video? What if my posts went unread?
Ultimately, it didn’t matter.
I’ve improved so much at writing. My videos are better every time I post a new one. I’ve made friends from people commenting on my stories. I’ve grown so much more introspective from writing every day, and I know so much more about emails and websites than I did even a month ago.
I was never going to be perfect. But I was going to be better. I just had to get started.
You might think nothing is better than something that isn’t perfect.
This was the biggest one for me to overcome.
In my head, I wasn’t afraid, I was just being tactical. To me, my hesitation to create wasn’t hesitation — I was simply waiting for the right moment.
See, in my mind, I thought it would be better — look better to other people — if the very first thing I created was perfect in execution. Who likes success stories about people who tried hard for a long time and then their hard work paid off? I think most of us are guilty of preferring that instant-shot-to-success-and-stardom tale, that lets us believe we too can make it big on our first go. It eases our egos and lets us off the hook from the fear of trying and failing.
We’re not afraid to start… we’re just waiting for the right moment.
Y’all, I probably don’t have to tell you this, but those stories? They don’t exist. Sure, you’ll get the odd unicorn who does tremendously well from the get-go. But the majority of the people who do well, even those ones who seem like they get a home run on their first try? They’ve struggled. Hard. For a long time. They’re sweated and nitpicked and practiced.
And it’s taken me so long to realize that this is the success story I prefer. The good, old-fashioned, try-hard-and-you’ll-get-somewhere. It is absolutely and infinitely preferable to start somewhere, do badly, and get there in the end, than spend your life forever waiting to be perfect on your first try.
Look, I regret a lot of things in my life. But diving in headfirst into creation has rarely been one of them. Sure, I’ll rush to publish something only to find it’s riddled with typos or the structure is off. I’ll push that video to live, missing out that I didn’t edit 0:58–1:03. My website might be only half-formed and still a work in progress.
But if I stopped to think every time before I jumped, if I paused to make sure every piece of content I created was executed seamlessly with no mistakes? If I was too afraid of imperfection to try?
I never would have started at all.
I’m telling anyone reading this what I wish I’d been told, years, months, weeks ago. That first video won’t be perfect. Your first story might not be successful. Your newsletter might take some tweaking.
Who the heck cares? Go out there, make the first step, and start learning. It won’t be perfect, I will tell you that now. But that is not a good enough reason to stop you anymore.
A new online magazine about the art, craft, and business of storytelling, STORIUS is a publication for everyone interested in how stories are created, discovered, distributed, and consumed.