Forgive yourself

This year, in all of the presentations at conferences and events, I have ended with a slide that says this:

“Forgive yourself.”

This past week, I shared that with a group of writers in a talk I gave for Writer’s Digest, and I received a note back from an author saying this:

“Thanks for a fantastic seminar. Everything was succinct and very powerful. My favorite thing was at the end, where you tell me to forgive myself for the screw ups, and stuck in the mud feeling occasionally. I will now use all the techniques you described today to get out of this rut.”

It was a reminder to me that sometimes all of the advice and tips in the world can’t help you if you feel you are in a rut. If the narrative in your head — if the feeling in your heart — is that you can’t make progress.

What I mean by “forgive yourself” is this: if you are someone pushing yourself in a new direction creatively, I encourage you to forgive yourself — to let yourself off the hook — if, in the process, you:

Have messed up.
Tried and failed.
Couldn’t find the time to “do it all.”
Feel confused.
Did something new in the messiest and most embarrassing way possible.
Are not being a bestseller, even if all your friends are.
Can’t get a single review for your book.
Didn’t win the award.
Can’t find an agent.

Because each of these things, and others, can create a mindset that holds you back. That stops you in your tracks.

The truth is, that if you scratch the surface of those who have found success, you find that their life was FILLED with everything above. What was the difference that made them successful? This:

They forgave themselves for what didn’t work. Then persisted anyway.

Many authors are overwhelmed with all the tasks they are told they have to do. The longer that list is, the easier it is to feel that they are failing in some way. This can cloud their motivation.

They look around and find 1,000 cues in our world that say, “Just give up. Go back to focusing the ways others already define you, not on how you are hoping to grow creatively, or as an individual.”

Every single day, I work in the trenches with writers to help them develop their voice, share their message, and reach an audience. The biggest barriers I find are not in the surface level stuff — such as which social media channels to use and how — but in the deeper stuff. The ways we hold ourselves back because of how we manage our thoughts, emotions, and expectations.

Maybe none of this describes your experience. Perhaps you are reading this and the term “forgive yourself” doesn’t resonate. If that is the case, then I would encourage you to take a single action: find someone in your life who is pushing themselves in a fresh direction to create something new, and offer them words of support. That’s it.

A nice email. A nice letter. Tell them how inspiring they are to you.

That alone may be the fuel that they need to keep moving forward, or to pull themselves out of the mud when they get stuck.