Notes from the coffee shop: Doubt


I don’t know what I’m doing.

I started this post thinking I would write about Stealing Like an Artist, aka my favorite-book-that-I’ve-never-read-but-am-going-to-soon.

But then I started thinking about it, and realized: what do I even know about stealing like an artist? Do I steal? Stealing is wrong, isn’t it? What if I wrote a short story about thieves? Thieves are fun to write, aren’t they? Isn’t my brother’s favorite character a thief?

And then I realized. Not only was this a long and unproductive bunny trail, it was one sprung out of doubt.

I’ve thought about starting a blog for years. I had the name chosen (brainstorm), and I knew I would write about things I loved. Art, writing, obscure politicians, storytelling, quotes, Netflix. But I could never get around to actually starting that blog. Do you know why?

Doubt.

Maybe it comes from my oldest-child tendencies toward perfectionism, maybe I’m my own worst critic. Maybe I don’t believe I have anything worth saying.

Something you’ll learn very quickly from reading this blog is that I competed for five years in a speech and debate league called NCFCA (look it up, the acronym is super long to type out. #lazyfingers). I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I loved public speaking, especially when it came to the speeches in which I told stories (watch for posts about these stories).

Those speeches were relatively easy: I wrote them, I memorized them, I performed them. I was confident in my material and I communicated that confidence.

But then, there were limited prep speeches. Yes, they are as scary as they sound.

Limited preparation speeches made you draw a topic - any topic - and then prep for only a few minutes and then deliver an entire speech off the cuff. Because I’m a writer, I could come up with content for these speeches. I had lots of thoughts I could share.

But I often didn’t share those thoughts and ended up squandering my five minute speeches with generic stories and anecdotes.

I did okay success-wise with these speeches, but I knew I could be better. So, I talked to my infamous speech coach (Travis, who you’ll also hear much about). He asked me if I believed that my content was fascinating. I told him, no. There were many more people with many more thoughts than me, people who were smarter and more spiritually mature and more engaging and with more interesting lives. Compared to them, I had nothing to say.

And that was my problem.

Travis coached me to speak as if what I was saying was worth hearing - was fascinating. That was really hard at first. It felt like I was projecting a false version of myself, like I’d clothed myself in the wrong attire.

But slowly, it became more natural.

Because the truth is, we all have something to say. Whether it’s through literal words, or through music, art, or some other means. Telling ourselves that our stories aren’t worth sharing is selling the world short. It’s giving up our greatest power. Telling our stories isn’t only important for our own sakes, but it’s important for the world. We each open doors to reveal deep truths to which no one else has the key.

It’s time to punch doubt in the mouth. Share your stories without fear. No matter how ordinary and uninteresting you think you are, you have thoughts and ideas someone else needs to hear. Get out there.