For those who have been following along, I have decided to become more focused in my writing. Both on the topics I cover and how I will be writing.
I’ve started a process of preparing. I’ve been reading and scoping, fleshing out potential topics and thinking of people I might interview. Along the way, I’ve felt the familiar feeling of self doubt creep back in.
I’m sharing them with you today, in the hope that I’m not alone, and we can support each other in our writing journeys.
What I want to focus on
I feel a pull to write about aspects of our urban environments, in an everyday way.
I’m hoping to focus on how the decisions we make every day impact on the way we as a society experience life. These range from conscious, deliberate decisions such as planning approvals, through to choices we make everyday – where we shop, how we get to work, and how much our recreational time is spent in our local area – and everything in between.
I also want to look at the interaction between people and place – why different groups and individuals have very different opinions about how space and place should be used – hopefully to increase understanding and to take some of the sting out of what can often be a contentious subject area to be involved in.
I’m also hoping to expose some of the great things people are doing, and why these things matter. We all live in ‘place’. Whether we live in a city, town or rural area, we are all ‘citizens’. And if I can write to in a way that demonstrates some of the connection to our place, our role in shaping it, and the interactions we could have with others who share a connection to the same place – be it a house, a garden, a street, suburb, region – well, I think that’s worthwhile.
I have a feeling that this is an issue that is significant – that my writing (once I actually start) – could lead onto something else. And that is exciting.
All good stuff (I think). So what’s the reason for the worry?
Doubt Number One – Who I am to write about this topic?
When I start to write though, I get uneasy. I seem to have some discomfort about my right to write. I seem to be making a distinction between the right to write about things that are happening in everyday life (of course I can – it’s my life), and wring on topics that might require some expertise and evidence (what???).
What makes me someone who can write about what is happening in our cities, in our suburbs? (sure, I’ve been working as an urban planner for 20 years, but I’m no EXPERT! Are you kidding?)
Am I am biting off too big a topic?
Are my aims, which including hoping that this might help some become a little more empathetic, too aspirational?
Am I covering topics that others have, and if so, have they done it better?
Of course, I know a lot of these doubts are just fear. I also know how to respond to these doubts, and I’ve listed a few below.
You’ve got to start somewhere – a journey starts with the first step
It’s important to aim high. Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars (yes, soppy, but I like stars, so it kind of works)
What I don’t know, in many ways, is as important and as interesting as what I do. It keeps me interested, open to new ways of thinking, and questioning. This was a perspective I hadn’t thought of until I read writer Grace Paley’s advice in this Brain pickings article. It’s particularly relevant advice to the subjects I want to explore.
And this lovely quote, and image, from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page earlier this week, putting paid to my feeling that I need to be the first to cover this topic:
These are all valid points. The trick will be to remember them. And I think I will need to be reminded, time and again.
Doubt Number Two – Who will read it, anyway?
In a way, this is the flip side of Doubt #1. Yes, ok, it’s worth having a go, for the reasons I’ve listed. But does it matter – will anyone ever see it? Will it have IMPACT? What???
Yes, I know this is crazy thinking, for the following reasons:
Why am I worrying about this?
It’s strange, really, that I should be worried about this. Surely, if few people were reading my work, my fears listed under Doubt 1 would be less relevant. So that would be a good think. Surely. (Please tell me I am not alone in my contradictory thinking!).
Why do I feel that everything should be ‘successful’ fairly quickly?
Why do I expect, from the start, that everything to be well written, on topics that are appealing, and there will be flocks of people following along? Why do I feel it is a waste of my time if things do not turn out this way?
I know this is not the way, generally, things work. Things take time, and time can be good. It allows things to develop and a stronger product may result. But … the thought rattles away there, especially as I know I am taking time from my family to attempt this (mother guilt strikes again).
Of course some people will read this – some people are already reading what I write.
It’s foolish to think no-one will read anything, plus ungrateful, because some people already do read this blog. My lovely family and friends – thank you. And for those who I don’t know, or didn’t when I didn’t know when I started writing, who have taken the time to find and read and comment on my blog. Some are becoming friends, supports, a network.
So get the ‘no readership’ thought out of your mind, Helen!
Maybe I can’t do it all on my own. Maybe I might need to be more open about asking for help – building a network? Oh no, I don’t know how!
I’m not comfortable asking for help and support. I feel awkward in doing so, I mentally keep score and wonder if I have the capacity to offer the same in return (even though, unless I am excessive with the requests, I know people don’t keep their own mental list).
I also know the topic I am covering may not appeal to the same people who currently read what I write. I will probably benefit from people who don’t work / think about planning much at all, as well as those who do. Can I actually ask for help and from whom?
This is a big barrier for me. I think it’s my the main hurdle to get over (oh, that, and making the time, and keeping organised with what I am covering). Help. Hmmm. Yes, I might need some help. How, though? Help!
Do you have doubts with following through on your dreams?
Do you have help (and how do you ask for it?) As a chronic, ‘I can do it myself’ person, I’d really love some tips!