No matter how much technical information, advice, feedback and other kind of support you might get, it is you alone who has to have the courage to publish your book. However, that courage to cross the line does not only happen in the final moments before you hit the ‘publish’ button on Kindle (or wherever else you are publishing your book) but throughout the whole time you are planning, writing and preparing your book for publication.
That’s a silly question really. We all know what courage is, but if you need reminding, here is the definition from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary:
Courage: The quality of character which shows itself in facing danger undaunted or in acting despite fear or lack of confidence.
It is the ability to feel fear or uncertainty and go ahead anyway that defines courage. It is an easy thing to talk about but a difficult thing to implement. But we must implement it somehow, whether that is by making a big leap or by taking small steps. That is because it is only by being courageous that we leave our comfort zone and it is only be leaving our comfort zone that we raise our level of confidence and create something.
This is why, whenever we do anything new, we almost always experience fear and why we need courage to move forward and achieve what we want to achieve.
When do we need courage?
It is easy to imagine that we need courage when we get to the point of delivery – when we launch ourselves. But we also need courage to begin something. When we start on a path we are taking a risk. We risk success and we risk failure. Success will drive us further out of our comfort zone and failure will force us to confront ourselves and grow so we can succeed another time
When it comes to writing a book, we can experience the crippling effects of fear at any time. We do not have to be starting or finishing. Often that fear comes up when we are in flow or when we are tackling our revisions. The problem with fear is that it is often paralysing so we need to have strategies for dealing with it, otherwise we will never move forward.
How can we summon up our courage?
My favourite three ways to summon up courage are these:
- Accept that it isn’t perfect, you are not perfect and it is what it is.
- Go on an adventure and enjoy the experience – what might you discover?
- Feel the fear, release the emotion and move forward.
Accepting imperfection is hard, especially if you feel particularly vulnerable or you are a perfectionist by nature. If acceptance is too hard for you right now, go for a bit of adventure. Can you get excited about giving yourself up to the experience and seeing what happens? If not, allowing yourself to experience the emotion, say ‘yes’ to it and then keeping on with your work may be a solution that works for you.
Whatever you do to alleviate your fears, don’t let them hold you back. Notice when fear comes up for you and make a note of what you are doing when it arises so you can anticipate potential banana skins so you can deal with them better next time.
Also notice what your response is when you start to feel nervous or unsure. Do you start tidying your desk or washing the kitchen floor? Or do you reach for a glass of wine or play computer games? Usually when we feel unsure we anaesthetise ourselves or become mindless to block out the unwelcome emotions.
The magic of keeping on
However difficult it is, you must return to your work, even if it is only for a few minutes at a time. You need to acclimatise yourself to the feeling little by little because when you do this you will become more accustomed to it.
When I first started writing blog posts, I was very nervous. My mind went blank, I couldn’t think of anything to say and I did everything possible to avoid writing one. Now I am on day 62 of my 365 days of blogging and I’m no longer nervous about writing my posts (maybe I should be!). This experience has taught me that avoiding something makes it feel big and powerful – more powerful than me. Whereas if I confront it, I become bigger than it and I am more powerful.
I know that however hard it is to confront my fears and be courageous, it is worth it because my confidence grows and I believe more and more in my ability to overcome difficulties. The same is true for you, you just need to test your courage muscle and get used to working it and keep working it.
Courage, like confidence, is a habit that is developed by taking action. The action can be small or large but as long as it is definitive and consistent you will change. You will gain greater certainty and faith in yourself and your ability to achieve whatever it is you want. That in turn will give you courage and so the positive spiral continues, one success building on the one before until you find yourself scaling mountains.
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