Why Do I Think I Can’t?

Peter Pan Quote | eastandblog.com

I have a vivid memory of a conversation I had with N, several years ago. I was rambling to him about blog stuff (most of which he didn’t understand. blah blah sponsorships blah sidebar ads blah blah analytics blah post idea) and he was kind enough to listen.

So he says to me, “You really like writing.”

To which I replied, “Yeah, I do”.

“Why don’t you write a book?” he asked.

“I can’t write a book,” I replied.

“Why not?” he said, with that tone he uses when he knows that he’s right.

But the idea seemed (and still seems) completely ludicrous to me. I can’t write a book. But why can’t I?

I’ve had what I believe to be an interesting book premise in my mind for a couple of months now. I create characters in my head. I try to put together the plot and a general outline of the book. But I’ve never written a single word of it.

The dreamer in me would love to write a book. The realist me says that I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the technical training, the creativity, or honestly, the drive to write a book. And what if I did? It would never get published.

When I shared these doubts with N and he shrugged and said “I don’t know why you think that. You never know. Every best-selling author probably had those same feelings at one time.”

It’s not just about writing a book. This isn’t the only thing in my life that I feel this way about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an idea and instead of running with it, I convince myself that I could never do it. That someone else could pull it off but I couldn’t.

I’ve often wondered if I could start my own podcast.

I’ve considered starting another blog – one that has a more specific niche.

I’d like to learn to play guitar.

I’d love to learn to create Genesis child themes.

I think about improving my photography and wonder if I could eventually have a side business.

I’ve often pondered really putting effort in to learning another language.

Why does it all seem impossible to me? Other people could do these things. But not me.

I wasn’t raised this way. I’m certain that 4-year-old Nadine believed she could do anything. She wanted to be an artist though she had little artistic talent. Later she wanted to be a writer, an architect, a doctor, a newscaster, a meteorologist, a press secretary, a fitness instructor (HAHAHA), a brand specialist, a corporate executive, a non-profit director, and dozens of other things. And she believed she could be all of those things. When did that stop?

I’m not sure. I’m not sure when I became the “I can’t” girl. It’s not who I want to be. I so admire people who push aside their fears and chase their dreams (Taylor comes to mind, one of the bloggers I admire most). Fear of failure, or ridicule, certainly holds me back. Blogging has taught me a lot and is a positive outlet in my life and yet I also think it has made me far more self-conscious and fearful. I’m constantly nervous that I’m going to be ripped apart and maybe because of that, I shouldn’t be blogging in the first place. I’m too sensitive. But here I am.

I will share this with you. I have started a new project. One that scares me and one I’m nervous to fail at and fearful to share with you. It’s a work in progress and one day (soon) I’ll announce what it is. But for now I’m going to do that blogger thing where I hint at something big and then leave you wondering. So wonder, if you would. And be kind if you can.

  • JC

    NaNoWriMo – if you think you can’t write a book participate in this. I did it for the first time this year and woah. I discovered so much about myself, and have pushed myself so much further in the 6 months since. Even if you try something and fail, who cares, at least you aren’t sitting on the couch with your thumb (you know) getting old and fat. That’s what i keep thinking anyway. Good luck I know you will be great.

    • I’ve heard a lot about NaNoWriMo but I’ve never even considered participating. I don’t know that I’d succeed if I put that much pressure on myself. Did you feel more supported because you were doing it with other people? What are the advantages to doing it that month vs. another time?

      • I’m another person who’s done Nanowrimo, and I’d really recommend it! 50,000 words isn’t really enough to finish a full-length novel, but it’s enough to give a person a real kick up the arse. I’ve finished one novel that needs editing, and I’m 3/4 of the way through another. I find the community really helpful (They’re not just on the website, but all over Twitter, Instagram and loads of other corners of the internet) and you soon realise that whether you take 30 years to write the first draft of your novel or 30 days it will always be terrible, so you might as well take the 30 day option. Nobody has to read it, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to edit than it is to write. It’s kind of like sculpting, in a way – it’s a lot easier to sculpt if you have something to chip away at instead of empty space…

  • i can relate to this post so much. My boyfriend is the dreamer in our relationship and believes he can do anything while I am the skeptical. Currently we are discussing opening up a cafe in the near future and he is all for it knows we can do it while in sitting here excited about the possibility but so doubtful it could actually happen. I’m trying really hard to believe and work at it. We shall see what happens.

    • See I’m definitely the dreamer of our relationship but I don’t have the follow through to actually move forward and do something because I’m too anxious about failure. I hope you do open that cafe!

  • I’ve had these same thoughts for years. I dream of: writing a book, having an online boutique, and running an online magazine. For years I’ve had these thoughts in my head. One day recently I woke up and was like “JUST DO IT!” (Nike style). So I did it, I’m starting an online magazine (launching in June). And you know what? As soon as I announced it, the support FLOWED in, like so many people wondered why it took me so long to do this. They think I can do it, so why have I been so afraid. And if it fails in 3 months, at least I tried. Looking forward to hearing what your new project is 🙂

  • My first reaction to this was “GIRL GO FOR IT YOU CAN TOTALLY DO IT!” And you can. I think you’d write an awesome book and I’d totally read it. But, I know I fall into the same thing all of the time. I was just having this conversation with my writing friend over tea last week about how “What if it’s not good enough… what if I can’t do it…” and she had to tell me I could the way N had to tell you. We all have our doubts. LIke you, I have a whole list of things I want to do or I said I wanted to do, but never did. Or they seem overwhelming. I’ve had a couple of BIG pipe dreams like opening a coffee/book shop but when I think about it I get scared and I’m like “There’s no way I could do that.” But why not? So, I try to look at things I HAVE accomplished. I started a blog. I have two YouTube channels. I randomly said I wanted to play ukulele one day and then I did. (Guitar is a whole other story.) So, that’s my adivce. I say you go for the book. If there is a story you want to write – WRITE IT! I know for me, when I have a story in my head I want to get it on paper. Or screen. Then, when you get discouraged, think of all of the things in your life you have done. If you can do those – you can totally do this too. And I’m always here to help brainstorm and give writing encouragement. 🙂

  • I have the same exact feelings, and the same response from my fiancé (which I’m grateful for since it pushes me along when I’m doubting myself). We all have doubts and it’s normal. I try to remind myself — what’s the worst that can happen? So if I wrote a book and it didn’t get published, at least I wrote a book at some point in my life and hey, maybe it will lead me to write another book that will get published? No matter what you will feel better once you try!

  • Shelby

    I am loving your blog lately. Your honesty can be felt and I relate in such a big way to so much. You can do it. We are rooting for you, and you can do it.

  • I am always ALWAYS scared of failing at my projects. I feel very similar to you and not sure why I hold myself back and make so many excuses. I feel akin to Taylor a lot as well- she just gets after it and does it. I’m so excited for you and wish you nothing but success!

  • Well this wasn’t necessarily the intention of your post, one of the things I’m picking up on this is you are marrying the right person! I have been going through this the last few years too – also not something I experienced when I was younger. But, out of college my career took me to a place I never expected, not in a good way. I felt like I ended up in a hole I couldn’t get out of it. I’m slowly climbing out, but it’s really hard! And really easy to think you can’t. But truthfully, that’s ridiculous. One thing I’m definitely coming to terms with is that “formal” education – as in having an official degree in something – is not the only way to be good at it. And really, it’s the most expensive way to be good at something. Figuring out new and maybe unconventional ways to teach myself, learn, and get experience, has been really eye opening!

  • I think we believe we cannot do these things because we want to do them all at the same time. I have realized lately that I just need to take it one dream at a time. Last summer I planned on learning sign language, but it was just too much to add on to with my school program. I have always dreamed of being a counselor and that’s the dream I am working on. I think it’s helpful to think of having a dream that fulfills your needs, your desires, and your passions. You can work on each of these areas at the same time, but maybe with just one dream in each category. We are so complex that we tend to forget that we can simplify if we put our minds to it. Blessings to you as your pursue this dream that you have us all on our toes waiting to hear!

  • Ugh! You and me both girl! Most of your list mimics mine. I think when I was a kid I had that drive to just do whatever, and even through college. Then all of a sudden I started to get older and have a few responsibilities and things that worked for me and every leap seemed scarier. Jumping from your bed to the floor covered in pillows is so much less scary than jumping off the side of a bridge with only a cord to keep you safe. When I was a kid or even in high school and college I had my parents to fall back on, if I failed I’d just go home and they’d take care of me and support me. Once I got a house and a real job my cliff started getting higher and higher, taking a risk and going in a different direction means I’m jumping off that cliff now instead of the bed to the soft floor. I might end up in a better place, but I also may end up beaten and battered at the bottom wishing I had never taken the first step. That fear has paralyzed me in the last few years, that and not having one direction I want to go. If I decided for example that writing a book was the thing I absolutely wanted to do jumping would mean knowing if it was right or not, but when I have 20-30 different things I might want to do jumping means choosing that one and its not 50/50 anymore its far less.

    Alright I’m done rambling, long story short, I felt like I could have written this post!

  • oh how i’ve been there and am still there SO much. i’m also married to a man that rarely struggles with self-doubt and nothing has really ever felt impossible to him. it’s something that i admire about him but also feel very envious of at other times.

    dreams are scary because there is always a chance of failure and i’ve only recently started thinking about being more excited about the possibilities and less about what happens if it fails. it’s a constant battle in my head each and every day as i embark on entrepreneurship but sometimes i notice my ‘self pep talks’ are lasting a little longer than the last time!

  • Go for it! Once you start you will build up your momentum and you’ll wonder why you waited so long. Even if you change your mind or decide to do something else, at least you’re moving in the right direction. Good luck with all your projects!

  • you could TOTALLY write a book. think about how much content you have already written and put out in the world? I would read it.

  • I love this post so much. I’ve felt that way about so many things as well. I’ve written and self-published three novels. But then I was laid off from two consecutive writing-based jobs and have doubted my skills ever since. Why? So two people didn’t like my writing … there are probably others who do. I need to get back to it.

  • I think you started writing your first novel and I know that feeling oh so well because I felt the same when I started mine. I just felt like I couldn’t do it even though I always wanted to. Well, let me tell you it’s possible. I did it! Now I have no clue what to do next if anything but no matter what doing it is the most important step.

  • I think this way a lot as well, maybe I should do this or that but there is always that little voice that says I can’t – thanks for making me take a step back to ask why, why can’t I!

  • Better than ‘why can’t you’, how about ‘what is there to lose?’ As of today, you have never had a novel published. The only way to have a book published is to write it and send it out. And if it doesn’t get published? Well, hey, you’re in the same place you are today, no worse off at all. The potential is only to improve upon where you are today! Good luck to you!

  • I would really like to write my own book and I had the exact same thoughts as yourself. I’ve been searching for blog posts on how people got into writing and having a book published and found a few people that give awesome sauce advice for creating ebooks and courses etc. I enjoyed this post – you’ve inspired me to at least start writing a book. And I hope your project goes great!

    Sarita xx

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and after reading this I decided it was time to finally comment.

    I could have written this post. As I was reading, I found myself thinking, “Whoa … Did she get inside my head?”

    Publishing a novel has always been at the top of my list of things I want to accomplish. It really is difficult to find the time and motivation to sit down and work on a creative writing project, though. I mean, there are weeks when I have a hard time finding the time to work on blog posts, and those obviously don’t take as much effort as a novel. I’ve actually been working on characters, plotlines, etc. in my head lately as well, but I haven’t actually written anything down (other than a few notes here and there). It’s frustrating because I have ideas that I think might work, but I’m just not sure what I want to do with them.

    I’m also plagued by the fear of failure. I’m sure a lot of people are, but my fears are so extreme that they often prevent me from even trying. And that’s obviously not a good thing.

    I feel like I’m rambling … Sorry. I really just wanted you to know that you’re definitely not alone, and that I really enjoyed reading this. (Oh, and I also read Taylor’s blog and feel the same way … I think it’s amazing that she puts so much of herself out there in an effort to make her dreams a reality.)

    Good luck on your upcoming project!

  • Julia

    Oh wow, I feel the same way about so many things. I also want to learn how to play guitar, haha. I don’t know why I doubt myself so often, because if I think I can’t do something then obviously I can’t! Most of the time when I think I can do something I end up being able to do it, or if I’m not able to do it then I’m glad I at least tried. I love your honesty!

  • I think half the battle of accomplishing our dream is getting out of our head. I know I will always self doubt and be extra critical, but when I share these out loud other people can’t believe it. As cliche as it is, you just have to learn to believe it to attempt it and succeed hopefully.

  • it’s hard. the pursuing your dreams because the thought of coming up short or failing completely is terrifying… BUT it’s also so insanely enriching to take a stab at it. I would encourage you to do it all, because we should do it all, and maybe I should encourage myself more often too. 🙂

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