If all your life is checking boxes, you’ll never learn


Writing is a terrifying adventure. You open your veins and bleed all over a page, and you hope and pray that your words resonate with someone. If they don’t, well it’s pretty devastating. People who only read words don’t always understand the emotional toll it takes to create them. And it’s a double-edged sword because a writer desperately wants honest feedback, but we also want to make a difference in people’s lives by what we write.

It’s scary to spend a year or more on a story and release it to the world, to be pounded and crushed and picked apart. But that’s what writers do. We tell stories.

I’ve been writing stories and giving them away for two decades. While that same old fear still nags at the back of my brain, it’s not as loud as it used to be. But recently I came face to face with the Big Scary Monster of self-doubt and insecurity, made all the more terrifying by my own pride (which is formidable).

Startup Stock PhotosI’ve never truly collaborated on a novel before. I wrote some with my best friends in junior high and high school, but at that point, we really weren’t serious about writing. This latest project is a whole different ball of wax. I’m writing with someone. It’s a in genre I’ve never written before. The characters are new, and I don’t know them well. And did I mention that I’m writing with someone? As in another thinking person with opinions and a different skill set. Another person whose writing I respect and adore.

It’s beyond scary. It’s petrifying.

But as with every other situation in life, if you focus on your fear, you’ll never move forward. You’ll just keep looking backward for the rest of your life, and you’ll never learn those important lessons about friendship and humility and faith.

Writing can be fun. Actually, if you’re a writer, I hope you have fun with it. I’m trying to remember how that works, because I don’t think I’ve let myself have fun writing for 10+ years. I’ve been so focused on getting things done that I forgot how to play, and for a creative person, play is essential.

Whether you’re a writer or not, you can approach life in one of two ways–either as a goal to be achieved or as a lesson to be learned.

Goal: Climb the Ladder vs. Lesson: Don't Climb a Ladder in Heels

Goal: Climb the Ladder vs. Lesson: Don’t Climb a Ladder in Heels

If your life is a series of goals, you’ll have a certain perspective on what you accomplish, and that perspective is that you’re never good enough. There’s always another goal. There’s always another box to check. And, man, it does feel good to check those boxes off, but what happens when there are so many boxes that you’ll never get them checked off in your lifetime? That’s a recipe for discouragement and depression.

But if you look at life as a series of lessons to be learned, you’re not just checking off boxes. You’re experiencing life one moment at a time, and what you learn in one lesson will transfer to the next lesson. Life lessons build on each other. They aren’t just contained in little check boxes that you mark off and forget about. Life lessons travel with you for the rest of your life. That’s kind of how wisdom works.

Doing something you’ve never done before is scary, but don’t look at it like just another goal to achieve. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn something you’ll need later. Checked-off boxes have to be neat and orderly; life lessons are usually pretty messy. And being messy is okay at first. You’ve got to start somewhere.

So the next time you’re faced with a scary choice, don’t run away just because you’re afraid. Talk to someone about it. Get some wise advice. Then make your decision. Who knows? God may be giving you the chance to learn a lesson now so that life goes smoother for you down the road.

Have you ever conquered your fear of something? What was it, and how did you do it? What were the results of your decision?

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