For as long as I can remember, people have told me that I am a talented singer and a gifted writer. When I run into friends I haven’t seen for years, one of the first things they ask is, “Are you still singing?” If they know that I have been published, then “Are you still writing?” invariably follows.
I could say, “I’m writing excuses for not singing,” and kill two birds with one stone, but I’d be lying about the writing part. Mostly. Plus I sang the national anthem at a Super Bowl party to the appreciation of a lot of new friends who had never heard me sing—another dozen or so people who will ask, “Are you still singing?” every time we meet until the end of days.
The truth is that I love to sing. I have performed alone, in school choirs, in madrigal choirs, and in small local bands. I have sung for weddings, for memorial services, in musicals, on karaoke nights, and in the classroom, to the surprise and delight of my students.
I also love to write. Or rather, I love to have written. Poetry, short stories, articles, essays, blog posts, tweets, letters, and funny one-liners. In my early 30s, I combined my love of music and words into songwriting and created eight or nine demos over the course of about two years.
And still, I can never give a definitive, “Yes!” to either of those two questions.
I have declined some invitations to sing because I’m afraid I’ll forget the lyrics, and I have accepted others and then done just that. After Christina Aguilera’s performance at the actual Super Bowl, my new fans included, “And you even remembered the words!” in their praise. Smugness is cruel: I knew exactly how Christina felt.
My fear of writing—because surely it is fear—is that I will have nothing interesting to say. I can talk a good game about how it doesn’t matter, that writing is about the process, and that I only need to write about what is interesting to me, but when it comes down to facing the blank page, I see it only as a reflection of my mind: blank. I have nothing to say right now. I will have nothing to say five minutes from now. I will NEVER have ANYTHING to say.
We can now say things like, “Our beliefs create our realities,” in public, without having people exchange knowing glances behind our backs. The idea that our attitudes and intentions affect our lives has reached our collective consciousness. That said, as I write this, I am home, sick with a cold that has stolen my voice; teaching middle school is challenging enough on days that I can speak.
Let’s revisit two of my fears and throw in one of my persistent beliefs:
“I’m afraid I’ll forget the words.”
“I have nothing interesting to say.”
“My students don’t listen to me.”
I credit Diane D.M. Solis for bringing me to the page today. After I read her post, Life is Always Teaching Us…Something, it occurred to me: Talking is not an option right now, but silence is a choice. If I don’t honor the still, small voice within, it will stop singing, too. And that would be tragic.
Now it’s your turn. Where are you holding back because of what someone else might think? What things do you dismiss simply because they come easily to you? And, of course: What is the one thing you would do if you knew you could not fail?
Do it anyway.