Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Getting out from behind the curtain: a few thoughts on ambition, fear and what we can learn from various random wizards.

I know it’s not just me who, in the face the super-streamlined efficiency of micro-blogging via Instagram, now struggles with traditional long-form blogging. (Crikey, yeah, this kind of blogging has become ‘traditional’, old school, a mere whiff of WiFi away from being as on-trend as a Telegram. Times and technologies certainly do move fast.)

I know it’s not just me who struggles with getting round to completing those projects she started in a whirlwind of inspiration and excitable ‘newness’ … and who now can’t bring herself to return to see it through to the end.

I know it’s not just me who has equal amounts of both the ambition to do more, create more, reach more people … and the sheer gut-knotting, brain-whirring, horror of all that that would involve.

And, because I know it’s not just me who feels like this
, I’m sharing a piece of writing today which hopefully will help someone else reading it (maybe even you?) realise that it’s not just them either.

Because it’s me too.


Background: This piece began life a couple of months ago as a 30 minute timed exercise in response to a writing prompt which suggested talking about: The fear of putting yourself out there. Why do we feel it? What purpose does it serve? And how can we overcome it?It’s been edited and titivated-up since.

The photos:
 aren’t the best I’ve ever taken, but they fit with what I wanted to say today.

Finally: there are multiple, non-deliberate,  references to wizards in this piece ... who knows where they came from. Make of that what you will ...


Getting out from behind the curtain ... 
The fear of putting yourself out there. Why do we feel it? What purpose does it serve? And how can we overcome it?’ 

Sign at Beamish musuem
Two immediate, and sharp, prongs spring to mind when thinking about the fear of putting myself 'out there': The fear of rejection and The fear of failure.

Recently for me the key to overcoming the fear of rejection has been faith in my starting point, the idea, article etc which I’m trying to persuade someone else to look at. I need to wholeheartedly believe in that idea before I begin; partly because it provides the motivation I’ll need to pitch and self-promote with a clear conscience, but also (and perhaps most importantly) because that original confidence can later act as a welcome buffer upon rejection.

Rejection is hard enough to combat without it catching on the tinder-sticks of self-doubt as it stalks past sending them up in flames too.

The idea might well be rejected but did you like it? Was it good work? Were you happy with it before you asked someone else to like it? If not, then come on ... if you had doubts about it too, why wouldn't someone else? But if  you did like it, and it was good solid work then fair enough, you get a pass, you can sail on to the next pitch with impunity. 

Following rejection your self-doubt sensors may feel a momentary hot-flush ... but you needn’t abandon them to the flames while they to burn to a cinder. Although in those initial moments you’ll feel like it, don’t (neither literally or metaphorically) throw your work or your self-belief into the fire, just find another marshmallow to roast on it until you feel strong enough to try again.
Sign at Beamish musuem
For example: J.K Rowling may well have felt the heat of so many rejections but she loved Harry. Believed in Harry. And believed that someone else out there would too. And she was right.

So undoubtedly it’s easier to stay motivated when you know you’re on to something good, but how do you reach this belief? 

Like I say, it must mainly come from the work itself. Surely? But if so then how are we meant to reconcile the fact that something we thought was good was turned away by others? In this case I guess all we can say is that it just wasn’t for them.

Sign at Beamish musuem
That’s how my latest rejection email read at least: “this isn’t going to work for us”. Which, for a short time, was a disappointing answer but at least it was an answer. At least I wasn’t left hanging or pestering, and - because I still like the article in question - I'll find a place for it somewhere else. Another website, another magazine or right here sometime or other. 

And at least receiving a rejection proves I did something.  I put myself out there, once again, and I guess the more times I do it the more I’ll get used to the heat. 

Asbestos hands’ that’s how some people explain their ability to pick-up hot things without flinching isn’t it? Well maybe if we're intent on being 'out there' some of us need to cultivate ‘Asbestos self-worth’.

But what if, unlike J.K Rowling, you don’t know if your work is any good? Oh … that’s a tricky one. Of course you can ask someone else for their opinion but then that just takes you back in the realm of subjectivity where whatever it is you’re creating might never be for them; they're not your target audience; they’re just not that into you.

And - forgive me for doubting you but - are you sure you can’t tell if what you’re doing is any good? Surely you do? One way or another?

Maybe you don’t know it every hour of every day. But which of us do? 

(I mean, it’s usually only the people who really ought not to who often hold an unshakable confidence in their abilities, leaving the more reflective among us to do all the soul-searching. Did you ever read about my mini-writing-related-breakdown? If so you'll definitely know that I don't believe in myself 24/7 and I’m certainly no stranger to a crisis of confidence).

But at some point, deep down, under all that uncertainty, you can surely determine the quality of your own out-put. Or you know enough about its worth to keep you going. Or at the very least you recognise that there’s something there ... even if you haven’t found the words for it yet, let alone the confidence to share it with others.

Don’t you?

Don’t I?

Sign from a local museum: a quick refresher course on the purpose of doors ...
As for the purpose of that fear of sharing more widely who we are and what we do then surely it’s related to protection, to safety, to self-defence; all perfectly noble, perfectly reasonable, responses given the circumstances. Which begs the question “Then why do you even want to put yourself out there?”

Why are you contemplating it? Why would you risk it? What do you want to come from it? Why now?

And I guess it would be in taking some time to answer these questions that you ... we ... will unearth the answer to that final question: “How can we overcome it?

Because once you possess a clear idea of why you’re doing it, what you’ll get from it, what will make it worth the risk then you’ll be holding in your hands the seeds of the revelation on how you’re going to overcome all those fears. Those answers will become the motivations which will keep you moving, in increments, towards being ‘out there’ in whatever form that takes for you.

You, the small, soft, vulnerable Wizard of Oz, easing yourself out from behind the safety of the curtain …  revealing yourself as you really are,  in which case … 

… maybe we both need to just click our heels together three times … the answers have probably been with us all along.

Sticky-note I found stuck to a computer screen on campus during assignment deadline season. 

I have some interesting projects in the pipeline that will involve me having to put myself 'out there' once again later this year ... and you know full well I'll be sharing it all with your here when I can (chances are I'll be going on about it so much that you might wish I'd stayed behind the curtain). 

For now though, I'm eager to hear your side of things ... 

  • Are you struggling to put yourself out there, even though you want to? 
  • Do you know what's stopping you? Or daren't you even start questioning the feeling? (No judgement  here ... I'm absolutely just as bad. Nothing like a bit of reading/starting a new project to dampen down those scary deep thoughts ...)

  • Or do you have any stories, tips or motivation of your own that you'd like to share in the comments?
Let's start a conversation here* about ambition, motivation, fear, rejection, wizards, ruby slippers ... whatever ... 

I'm all ears (and pointy hat).

Julie x

*Can't be bothered going through the torment of blog-commenting while on your phone? I don't blame you. Just grab me on a less cumbersome app instead:


  1. Your museum sign made me smile! And I am sure what you say will resonate with lots of us; being happy with the quality of one's own output is a great foundation.

  2. Self doubt - has to be the biggest reason we put off doing something! I have a story to share with you but will email it across or this will end up being the longest comment ever!

  3. Julie I enjoyed reading your thoughts on "putting yourself out there". To answer your 2 questions; yes & yes. I would like to blog more in-depth about things that are important to me but what holds me back are some of the things you talked about but I also have internal conflict about sharing & being known, about wanting to belong but not wanting to participate. I have NO useful tips or suggestions but will be checking back to see what ideas you or your readers share ... no I changed my mind, I do have a tip for you - keep on writing ...

    PS - I LOVE Harry Potter & I am in the middle of my annual summer re-read of all the books so I am most thankful JK Rowling kept at it.


Thanks for leaving me a comment, asking me a question, sharing your own story or just randomly saying hello.