I’ve been writing this site for 51 days now. It’s been an awesome and very fulfilling project, even though I haven’t told anyone about it. Now that the time has come to reveal it to the entire internet, I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous about doing so. I feel afraid, but it’s a fear that’s also strangely familiar.
You see, while I’ve only been writing the site for a couple of months, I had the idea years before that. At the time, I was working in an office and just starting my master’s program. While I found most aspects of office life utterly soul-crushing, my time in the cubicle did help me realize two important things.
The first was that I hated the routine of waking up early, driving to the same building, sitting for eight hours, and then driving back home to sleep and repeat. Every day. I found it exhausting and depressing. Some people don’t mind the routine, and some have decided to accept it, but for better or worse, after two years, I decided it just wasn’t me.
The second thing I learned was that there are amazing people on the internet. Brilliant writers and designers and programmers. People who make great things and are passionate about doing so. You might call them artists.
And as I sat in that cubicle with my almost-two very expensive English degrees, and nothing but a terrifying job market waiting outside, I thought, “Hmm. I’d really like to do something like that. To be one of those people.”
While these thoughts were taking shape, I was coerced into giving a presentation at my university’s Student Leadership Retreat. I wasn’t keen on the idea, because I knew little about how to fill out payment request forms, or what goes into drafting a constitution for your club or organization. Fortunately, plenty of other people did. I, on the other hand, wasn’t sure what I had to offer.
Since personal development was one of the presentation categories, I decided to create and give a talk called “Simple Happiness”, which was about using simplicity and minimalism to lead a calmer, more productive, and happier life as a college student. To my surprise, it was very well-received, and I got several generous reviews from students and faculty. I was even asked to give the presentation twice more: once for the Honors College, and again at the following year’s Leadership Retreat.
The success of my presentation indicated that there was a market for this type of discussion, and while minimalism blogs were a dime-a-dozen at the time, I thought I might have some worthwhile things to say if I ever had my own website. The more I thought about it, the more grandiose the daydreams became, and the more excited I got about the idea. But the problem was, it was just an idea. An idea that remained a daydream month after month.
The barrier, of course, was fear. Fear of starting something new. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of change, really. I was comfortable with my amazing dream website, and all the groundbreaking articles I would write, and the impressive readership I would amass… someday. Dreaming about it was fun and exciting, and it was safe.
To make an increasingly long story shorter, I dreamed about it until July of this year. I had been “designing” (read: fiddling with) a page for a few weeks, thinking, “As soon as I find the right colors, I’ll start writing.” Or the right font. Or the right column width. Or the right name. Obviously, that’s no way to get any real work done, so I finally decided, quite spontaneously, to write one tiny little post and click submit.
Nothing bad happened.
Nothing really happened at all, other than some words appearing on the page. And I found myself thinking, “That actually doesn’t look terrible… Maybe I’ll post something else.”
Coincidentally, on a then-recent episode of Back to Work, Merlin Mann advised anyone thinking about starting a website to do it privately for thirty days. Post something every day, but don’t show it to anybody. That way, you can see if it’s really something you want to do. So, starting that day, I did, and it was great. I loved it. I still do.
All that daydreaming and fear of starting was a barrier, which caused me to procrastinate and not move any closer to my goal. I finally broke through it, and now, 51 days later, a similar situation is presenting itself.
For the past two months, I’ve been writing consistently and loving it. You know how they say, “Dance like nobody’s watching”? Well, I’ve been writing like nobody’s reading. And let me tell you: it works! I actually have a website now, and there’s actually a lot of pretty good, not terrible stuff on it. But just as I couldn’t daydream forever, I can’t write in secret forever. Not with the dreams I have of becoming a full-time independent writer.
So, like every movie when the second-in-command guy pressures the President to make the controversial next move, the time has come! “We must launch.”
As I’m sure to find out, nothing bad is going to happen. One day people won’t know about the site, and the next day they will. One of the great things about writing privately for thirty days is that I know I can do this regardless of whether or not anyone’s reading. Sure, now I’m going to be vulnerable to criticism, but that’s the only way to get better. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If no one decides to read, then I’m no worse off than I was for the past two months. If a bunch of people decide to read, and they all hate it and think I’m an idiot, well… alright then. I’ll try to fix it. They can’t eat me.
In any case, when it comes to barriers, the best way out is through.
The next 51 days start in 3… 2… 1…