Deciding to Write Is Like Jumping in a Lake

Allison Burney

Nothing happens if all you do is sit on the dock and occasionally dip your toes in

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Photo by Tommaso Fornoni on Unsplash

The other day I published my 160th story online.

It felt like a huge landmark in some ways, but at the same time, it felt like just the beginning in many more ways.

I’ve been publishing online sporadically since November of 2015, which now feels like forever ago. Some months, when I set myself a challenge, I wrote a lot and published almost every day, and others I didn’t even publish one piece.

Admittedly, I’ve really just been dipping my toes into the water to see what it’s like, curious about the potential online writing holds, but never really wanting to commit—to dive in, head first. I’ve never allowed myself to go “all in,” as they say.

Secretly, I’ve been treating writing like a pipe dream, never fully saying yes to it because I’m afraid of finding out what might happen if I did say yes.

Get clear on what’s not working

We all have our favorite excuses and justifications for why writing “isn’t working.”

But what if it’s not writing or our platforms of choice that isn’t working? What if it’s us?

I have to admit that until now, I’ve been much more focused on the platforms I’m using than I have on my own output. I’ve been sitting back and watching, waiting for a good reason to dive in.

But that’s not how it works.

You don’t sit by the lake, watching the water until it somehow proves to you that it’s worth swimming in. You decide that you want to swim first, and then you jump off the dock head first. The water has nothing to do with it; it’s just there, waiting for you to use it however you want. Or not. It’s completely up to you.

You might use it to practice swimming so you can become better, or you might use it to briefly cool off on a hot summer’s day. Maybe you’re the type that just wants to sit by the water’s edge and take it in, never actually setting foot in the water at all.

None of this matters to the water. It matters only to you.

At some point, you have to actually jump in

For me, the problem is that I’ve been saying for years that I want to jump in, but instead, more times than not, I’ve sat on the dock, staring at the water—and that’s not how you become a professional swimmer.

Maybe you’ve been perched safely on the dock for a while too, a good book in hand and a cold drink by your side. And if that’s truly where you want to be, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s beautiful, calm, and peaceful. It’s one of the best ways to spend an afternoon that I can think of!

But if, like me, you know that you’re really meant to be diving in, then now’s the time to get clear on why you’re not.

If you’re afraid, it’s okay. It’s actually a good thing, for the simple reason that it means you’re human. We’re all afraid. If you don’t get that rush every time you write something and you’re about to hit the publish button, like the rush that comes when you leap off the dock, then something’s wrong.

Being a writer isn’t meant to be easy or safe or fearless. It’s scary. Going for your dreams is scary. Every time we leap off that dock, we have no idea what’s below the surface. We don’t know what awaits us. We don’t know how it will feel to hit the water, or what will happen next.

But isn’t that part of what makes it exciting? Isn’t that where the rush comes from?

You never know what might happen

This reminds me of a Michael Thompson article I read the other day.

In it, he talks about how one article he wrote took off while he was asleep thanks to the promotion of someone across the ocean. Someone he didn’t know—a complete stranger.

It turns out that this stranger was actually a very popular blogger in New York, and one mention of his article attracted hundreds of thousands of views. Over the span of just a few months, this one event changed the course of Michael’s career and allowed him to start writing for a living full-time.

Of this experience, he writes:

Maybe when you wake up tomorrow you’ll find that the world has caught on to what you’re doing too. Or maybe it’s the next day. Or the one after that.
For me, this is what makes this whole world of art so much fun.
We sit down and fight to find our voice and when we get the message right, some people decide to stick around to see what else we have to say.

And I couldn’t agree more.

The potential is part of the pull

Not knowing what will happen while you’re asleep, cooking dinner, talking to your mom, or reading someone else’s article is part of the fun of being a writer.

There is unlimited potential for almost anything to happen, including having the book you wrote acted out on the big screen right before your eyes!

This is a pretty incredible industry to be in, and a pretty exciting career path to follow. I’ve found little else out there that dazzles me with endless possibilities the way writing does, which is one of the reasons I know I’m meant to dive in deeper.

Of course, there are no guarantees that my work will get published, that my book will sell a million copies, or that my favorite Hollywood star will someday play me in a blockbuster hit, but I’m okay with that. (I’m sure Elizabeth Gilbert never imagined Julia Roberts would someday play her when she began writing Eat, Pray, Love either!).

What I do know is that anything can happen if I consistently put myself and my work out there — and this means frequently leaping off the dock, eyes wide and arms flailing.

No more playing it safe, only dipping my toes in.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to jump in too?

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Writer & proofreader. I love travel, reading, coffee, and exploring nature. On a mission to keep learning, growing, and enjoying this adventure we call life.

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