I was sitting in my kitchen two days ago, hands around a warm mug, staring into space, when out of nowhere, an idea for a novel dropped into my head.
(You know how ideas can do that, I bet.)
The bizarre thing is, I’ve never wanted to write a novel. I don’t even read many novels (nonfiction all day!). But there it was, the first scene, totally complete. From there, my brain unspooled all the story threads that would come out of it. I started to get excited.
As I went upstairs and started to brush my teeth though, a different narrative took over.
If I pursued this, I’d have to be ‘that’ kind of writer….one who cares about bestseller lists and marketing events and stuff. I don’t see myself doing that. And besides, I don’t know enough about this topic to put all the details in. Nor do I know anything about writing a novel or constructing dialogue, so how could it be any good.
Has something like that ever gone through your mind? Indulge me and think of an example, please – anytime you talked yourself out of a creative or bold idea. Hold it in your mind for a second.
Typing that inner monologue out just now, I spy something interesting about it:
My brain didn’t go straight to “I don’t know enough,” or “I have no experience.” Even though if someone asked me, those would be the first reasons I’d give them for not acting on the idea.
Rather, the idea got shut down because at its core, I couldn’t see myself as the kind of person who wrote novels.
Think about the difference for a second. There are plenty of things you and I both have done that we had no prior experience doing. But it didn’t stop us.
I think far more often, if a new shift or venture doesn’t fit with how we see ourselves, we shelve the thing.
And sometimes that’s okay. We don’t have to be all the possible things we can be.
But here’s the part that concerns me:
I was recently in a room of entrepreneurs where someone was getting advice about how to grow their business and make more money. People offered great suggestions, including to raise prices. Then someone asked, “Wait, why haven’t you raised your prices already?”
The person paused, then answered, essentially – I don’t feel yet that I’m the kind of person who can charge that much.
If you are trying to make a business shift that conflicts with the inner image you have of who you are, no amount of external business advice is going to be as powerful as changing that story you tell yourself about who you are.
Someone could teach me how to write dialogue and structure a novel. But if I don’t see myself as a novel writer, I’m never going to type a word.
Likewise, I can give you all the marketing plans, all the psychology tactics, all the writing tips in the world. You can take class after class. But if it takes you outside how you see yourself, you still might not find yourself acting on what you learn.
And the worst part is, by not acting, there’s a danger that will reinforce the story you’re telling yourself.
The small business world is full of awesome business advice. But when it comes to the core of why some people don’t take action, I think the support available comes up a little short. Just do it. Believe in yourself. People can get rather scoldy, even, when you don’t implement something you learn – you’re just lazy, you have to work for what you want.
But what if your problem isn’t laziness – what if you’re already working hard? What if you do believe in yourself in general, but can’t quite put your finger on why this new idea isn’t working?
One of my next blog posts is going to offer one place to start.
For now – go back to that time when you had a bold idea, and talked yourself out of it.
Did you have any thoughts like:
But I would need to be the kind of person who _______ But I would need to start caring about _____ But then everyone would expect me to be ______ I’ve never been one to _____
In other words: Is it possible that there was a mismatch between how you saw yourself, and what the creative idea would require of you?
Peel back a few layers and see if it’s there.
See you next time.