I'm about to make a lot of high achievers really, really mad at me. Because I'm going to go right against one of the most common tips on reaching your goals. (Something about Mondays. I always get rebellious.)
On just about every "How to Set a Goal" article flying around the Internet, you'll see this tip: Make your goal public.
Find a group of likeminded people. Get someone to hold you accountable. Post about your progress. Get others on board.
I don't have a problem with that in general, okay? I promise. So if you love the whole "be accountable" thing, then go for it.
But here's my counterargument.
Sometimes, we might have just barely enough courage to do the New Difficult Thing, whatever that is.
And maybe there's not quite enough courage left over to tell other people about it. To hear their comments mid-process. To check in with them. To let them challenge you.
Oooh, I have SUCH a good solution for this problem. You ready?
DON'T TELL ANYONE.
I mean it. Don't tell anyone!!
Start your crazy new project and keep absolutely quiet about it. Do your writing on the sly. Scribble away furtively in your closet.
No one has to know about it right now.
That wonderful secretive silence gives the new idea some safe room to rattle around in your head. It gives you time to freewrite about it, explore the possibilities, refine your thoughts, and even play a bit.
At some point, you can definitely get other eyes and ears on the idea. Eventually, you can run a later draft past a few people.
But not yet. Not while it's soft; not while it's growing.
I'm convinced that there's more than one kind of courage at work in our writing lives. And it trips us up if we think that they're all the same, all the time.
Don't confuse the bravery of doing the New Difficult Thing with the bravery of Telling People About It.
You really don't have to be ready to tell people what you're up to at the same time that you are up to it.
So, if you're feeling overwhelmed and not brave enough to do a goal that you'd really like to go after: I give you permission to zip it. Don't say anything. Keep it a secret.
What you might find is that secret keeping generates its own energy, and—what's really cool—its own bravery.
When I'm working on a story that no one else knows about, I feel like I've gotten back to the absolute heart of my writing: telling myself a story. Just for the heck of it. Just for the thrill of the tale.
That is a wonderfully exciting, pure, and yes, courageous place to work from.
So don't feel like you need to muddy it by talking about it too soon.
Keep it a secret for as long as you can manage. You'll be building your bravery as you develop your relationship with the project. You might be able to hear it more clearly, and work on it with more boldness.
And then, when the timing is right, you might find that you're actually ready to tell someone.
You were building the courage to speak up all along.
Want to keep reading? For more like this, check out How to Talk about Your Writing (Without Throwing Up) and My Super Grown Up Anti-Fear Technique.