The Doing Is the Thing


Everyone loves the line “Good for her, not for me” from Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

And with good reason. I love that line. I repeat it to myself several times a week. But that’s not the line that stuck out most to me when I read the book. I fell for a line that I think resonated with a lot of other people, but for some reason I haven’t seen it discussed/mentioned/quoted as much.

Actually, it was this whole passage:

And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.

The doing is the thing.

The doing is the thing.

And her brilliance continues:

Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried is it not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.

Yes. Yes!

Lately — most of the summer, I’d say — I’ve spent a lot of time talking and worrying and thinking. Planning, too. But not doing. And the stuff I have “done” has been half-hearted, at best.

And I know, at least in part, why that is. I’m scared — terrified — that I’m not good enough.

That I don’t have it in me to succeed as a freelancer.

That I’ll always be stuck doing the same types of projects for the same clients. (Just to be clear, I love the clients I have right now, and I enjoy the work I do for them. But that doesn’t mean I want to do that and only that for the rest of my career.)

That I’ll forever be spinning my wheels and just barely staying afloat (and mixing metaphors).

That my writing just isn’t that good.

That I don’t have the discipline or persistence to get better.

In the beginning of the year, I signed up for this online course on writing for magazines. It was pricey, for me, but taught by two really successful and respected freelancers and I thought, hey, I don’t really have any training in journalism or that style of writing and a lot of people say it’s fun and can be lucrative. They had weekly (bi-weekly?) assignments and a private forum/message board for the course where we’d submit our homework and it would get reviewed by actual magazine editors.

I only completed one lesson.

I told myself it was because I got really busy in January and February. Because I was focusing on other projects. Because I probably don’t really want to pursue magazine writing, anyway. Because online courses just aren’t my thing. Because I could still download all the course materials and go through them on my own time, eventually.

But come on. I was scared that I’d submit my work and these real-life, big-time editors (and fellow writers!) wouldn’t like it. That it wouldn’t be any good.

And rather than face that fear and get some feedback and instruction that would help me get better, I chickened out and didn’t do anything. It was a huge disservice (and expense!) to myself, my business, and my writing.

I didn’t do the thing.

I’ve realized and been thinking about this a lot recently. My big 29stories project has sputtered and basically come to a full stop. I hit some major “blogger’s block” and got frustrated because I’m not taking the steps I know I need to take to grow this blog because I don’t really know what I want it to be. So I spent the better part of August trying to “brainstorm” and “plan” and “taking a step back” and “evaluating” which are all a bunch of fancy words for not really doing anything.

I made plans and goals to land some guest posting opportunities and send out pitches and letters of inquiry and queries to drum up some more business and potentially new clients…and spent two hours making this big spreadsheet of all the businesses and publications I want to contact. When I did send out some pitches, they were formulaic and half-hearted and barely got any responses, so I got frustrated and scaled back to “re-evaluate” and realized hey, I need to re-do my website before sending any more pitches! And I started…planning and brainstorming on how to do that. My website has yet to be touched.

Instead, I’ve been updating old blog posts with re-sized photos and typo corrections and double-checked links. I’ve been avoiding writing the posts I really want to write because I don’t want to screw them up. I’ve been putting off doing things like buying ad space or editing my website copy or sending out legit, polished letters of inquiry or pitches for actual, developed guest posts. I’ve been trying to keep my Feedly unread list from getting out of control. I’ve been building spreadsheets to track my income and expenses or time per client or project. All things to keep me busy and feeling accomplished without doing the thing.

And I’m writing this now — and feeling downright terrified, again — to say that needs to, and will, change. That I am committing to doing the thing — to writing, to blogging, to growing my business, to improving. To facing my fears and trusting the worst outcomes I imagine actually won’t happen. To stop giving myself excuses.

Because the doing is the thing.