My dream was to be a writer and I almost gave it up completely.
I stopped writing creatively in college because I couldn’t find the motivation anymore. And it’s not that I didn’t want to…
It’s like my creativity and motivation hit a brick wall.
There’s No Substitute for Action
What holds us back? In my case, it’s fear and crippling perfectionism. I think it’s the same for many creatives.
Fear of failure. Fear of rejection or of others’ opinions. Fear that we aren’t good enough. Fear that we aren’t ready.
The fear that what we have to share has already been said, and better than we could have hoped to say it ourselves.
Not to mention, writing is hard. It is difficult to sit down and do the work. You know what’s easier? Turning to a podcast, or a book about craft, or an article by that author you love…
Recently, a friend posed a question that gave me an entirely new perspective. Ask yourself: Am I a consumer or a contributor?
I felt called out. In terms of my writing and creative work, I wasn’t putting myself out there. I wasn’t contributing.
And let me be clear… consumerism has its place. In fact, it plays a critical role in how we learn and grow. It’s important to do the research, to seek out advice, to learn new skills. I enjoy reading insightful articles, following skilled writers on social media, and signing up for newsletters.
But at what point does “studying” or consuming content become a substitute for action?
“Success must include two things: the development of an individual to his utmost potentiality and a contribution of some kind to one’s world.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Freedom in Contributing
A “contributor” has something to give.
Consider another word, something that means almost the same thing: “creator.” A “creator” makes something out of nothing. A “creator” brings projects to completion. Even so, this word never motivated me to put my head down and create. Or to take the next step, to share what I’d created with the world (or with anyone, for that matter).
These terms have different implied audiences. When I “create,” it’s for me, for my gain. When I “contribute,” it’s for others. For a community.
Contributing for the sake of others allows us to remove the stumbling blocks that held us back in the first place. And without those fears, we feel free to put ourselves (and our work) out there for others to appreciate — whether or not it meets our unattainable (and unrealistic!) standards of perfection.
When I look at my work through the lens of being a “contributor,” I realize I have a responsibility to give back, using the skills that are unique to me.
After all, who am I to decide what will or won’t be helpful to someone else? Or what might bring them enjoyment?
“You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do, and you must.” — Seth Godin
You Have a Contribution to Make
And the last thing I’ll say is this: Remember that the people in your life have invested in you. Your parents have invested in your well-being since you were born. Your teachers have invested in you. Your friends have invested in you — with their time, their encouragement and support, their advice.
Don’t forget that YOU have invested in you.
All the hard work and learning you’ve done — whether in school, or at work, or on your own time — has made you the person you are today. And our purpose in life is to share what you’ve learned with the people who may not quite be there yet.
The desire to make a contribution has motivated me to write again.
We are creators, but more importantly, we are contributors. This simple, yet powerful, mindset shift takes the focus off ourselves and our personal goals or accomplishments. We are more motivated to create unselfishly and provide value to others.
What do you fear more: Doing the work? Putting out an imperfect piece? Or coming to the end of the day (or your life) and realizing you’ve contributed nothing at all?
Go do the thing. You have a contribution to make.