Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You Go is sold in the children’s book section, but could be filed under motivational guide or self-help book. Struggling artists’ and writers should regard the book as a cheerleading bible, whose rhymes ought to be re-read over and over again until we believe them.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
While it’s easier to blame uncertainty and make countless excuses (writers are great at that), the truth is I never had the balls to commit to a dream and work consistently and persistently towards a goal. I’ve been a writer all my life but after going down the corporate highway for 15 years, it was hard to decide to start over at the ground level.
“You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads
at a break necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed,
I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place…”
In 1996 I graduated with a degree from journalism from NYU, and instead of embarking on the originally intended career of writing feature articles, I started a series of jobs working for advertising agencies writing fancy help wanted ads and agency RFPs, with one eye constantly fixed on the road not taken. Don’t we all have one? How far we’ve traveled down any road should never be the reason we don’t turn around and start over towards happiness.
The beauty of being alive is the gift of days, ever changing the road. This transition may not be easy or fun but all roads need to be crossed to get to the other side. Some roads are harder to cross than others; think of growing out bangs or molar teeth cutting through gums and the whole chrysalis-to-butterfly thing!
“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you. You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted, but mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?”
If I would have started writing EVERY DAY like I’ve committed to doing this year, 20 years ago, I may have been further on my road towards a prolific writing career. On the other hand, now I’ve collected 20 years of stories to write about. Back then I didn’t have to consider submissions to thousands of online publications, competing with thousands of qualified writers internationally. On the other hand, the world is big enough for everyone and there are more opportunities for novices to get exposure.
In addition to honoring my commitment to writing an autobiographical essay-a-day for 365 days, I also spend an unhealthy amount of time surfing the Web under the guise of competitor research. While it can be exhilarating to find Internet soul mates, it can equally be a doubtful dagger to the stomach. It seems I find people just like me, saying similar things, stuck in similar places between productively writing and writing about “how we want to write yet don’t have time to write.” Writers often struggle knowing they have words, not sure what to do with them, how to use them, where to put them, how to sell them.
If there are so many exceptional writers dreaming it and working hard towards it, echoing my very words, WHY ME? Why would I get picked rather than someone “better?” Or prettier? Or the ultimate threat: has more followers?
“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.”
Every day after my daily dip in the Net, negative thoughts rise to the top like seltzer bubbles. “Why would anyone choose to read my words? I’m nothing special. I’m not original. Maybe I’m not even that great.” These notions arrive like clockwork, soldiers sent from the Fear Command of my brain trying to convince me, “I’m not worthy.”
166 days of writing and publishing every single day and still, “Good morning apprehensions and insecurities, welcome back to my core and settle right into that memory foam couch.”
“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
Lately, I’ve made a concerted effort to actively change my thinking. I no longer greet these thoughts with a powerless shrug, acquiescing to them. I acknowledge I sent nasty thoughts to battle with myself just as easily as I could have chosen to send positive thoughts and while I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to keep the skepticism from coming, I’m trying a new technique to fight them off.
I say, “Why not me?” Over and over again. “Why not me?”
This year I decided to give my writing the same dedication and nourishment I devote to the other areas of my life: motherhood, marriage, running my small business. I’ve been the “Employee of the Year” at three different corporate jobs, yet I’ve never been a good enough employee for the most important boss: Me.
“But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.”
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”