20: Do It Afraid

20: Do It Afraid

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Do It Afraid

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.

~Oprah Winfrey

I wiped my sweaty palms against my khakis and glanced at the dashboard clock: 7:58 a.m. Across the parking lot, a young woman carried an armful of books and headed toward the front doors. Should I go in? Registration began at 8:00, but the first speaker didn’t start for a few more minutes. I’d wait. Conference attendees were probably mixing and mingling, sipping their lattes and discussing their latest novels.

I tapped my fingers against the steering wheel, trying to ignore the annoying voice inside my head. Writing for the church newsletter doesn’t make you a writer. Anyone can write for a church newsletter.

I watched a couple more conference-goers weave their way through the parking lot and disappear through the front doors. My stomach flip-flopped. How did I get myself into this? Instantly, I knew. It began several months ago when my pastor preached a sermon I couldn’t ignore.

It was a time of transition in my life. After ten years of full-time motherhood, my youngest had started kindergarten — and I felt lost.

“Now what?” I asked my husband. “Should I go back to my old job? Pursue a new career? Return to college?” Curt encouraged me to follow my dreams.

“You can do whatever you want,” he said, putting an arm around me. “But don’t just settle for any job. Do something you feel passionate about.”

In my heart, I knew my passion: writing. But writing was a risky endeavor. What if I wasn’t good enough?

It seemed silly, being afraid to write. It wasn’t like some masked man was going to jump out of a dark corner of my office and shoot me if I typed a lousy sentence. I tried reassuring myself. What’s the worst that could happen? An annoying voice inside my head answered.

You might look like a fool. Others will discover you have no idea what you’re doing. You could fail.

So, I ignored the dream, tucking it away — until the next Sunday morning.

“How many times do we limit ourselves because of fear?” My pastor’s eyes scanned the congregation. “How often do we miss what God has for us because we fear rejection and worry too much about what others might think?” I fidgeted in my chair. How did he know I’d been struggling with fear?

Over the next several minutes, I scribbled down notes and words of encouragement. But I’ll never forget what he said as he concluded.

“If you have a desire in your heart, don’t let feelings of fear stop you.” I nodded in agreement.

“It’s okay to be afraid,” he said. “In fact, it’s normal to feel fear. Just don’t let fear control you. Trust God with that fear. God will walk with you through your fear.”

I wrote down three simple words and underlined them as my pastor spoke.

Do it afraid.

Over the following months, those three words became my motto as I stepped out of my comfort zone and into the wonderful, yet overwhelming world of writing. I began reading every book I could find on improving my craft. In time, I worked up the courage to submit articles for publication — and had lots of practice coping with rejection.

Meanwhile, the relentless voice in my head worked hard to discourage me. But I didn’t give up. “Do it afraid,” I said as I pushed myself to write another article. Do it afraid, I thought as I e-mailed a magazine editor. “Do it afraid,” I said as I signed up for a writers’ conference.

And afraid I was.

My heart thumped in my chest as I walked into the first workshop of the conference. Like the new kid in a junior-high cafeteria, I searched for a seat in a room full of strangers. But those awkward feelings didn’t last long. By the end of the workshop, I felt at home. The speakers shared valuable tools for improving my writing. They also challenged and inspired me to persevere.

Perhaps even better, I formed new friendships. Meeting other people with a heart for writing energized me. These were my people. As someone who does her best work secluded in her office, it was nice to know I was not alone — especially when I realized I wasn’t the only one with a doubting inner voice.

In the months after the conference, I continued to follow my pastor’s simple but powerful advice. I joined a critique group, entered a writing contest and signed up for another conference. Every time I pushed myself, my confidence grew. Eventually, doing it afraid led me down a path to publication.

Today, I am still pursuing my dream. When insecurities creep in, I remind myself that the only way I can truly fail is to quit. Being successful is more than hitting a bestseller list. Real success is doing what I love. I may have sweaty palms and butterflies in my stomach, but I will always succeed when I keep doing it afraid.

~Sheri Zeck

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