Today I sat in a coffee shop next to a lady who was working on her first book, a memoir about her experience with violence towards women. She’s a spoken word artist and a writer, she says, and she has things to say that she wishes someone had said to her.
What touched me about the conversation was how hesistant and scared she seemed in the beginning. But she couldn’t not talk about it—I was a complete stranger at a coffee shop and it didn’t matter. The project compelled her, she said.
I asked a few questions, and listened a bit, and then offered a few pointers that she could have gotten from any writer who’s been at it awhile. I gave my opinions of publishing, and encouraged her to make the book as good as it could possibly be before trying to publish it anywhere. And, over the course of about five minutes, she lit up like a fire. Someone had heard her. Someone had told her to go ahead and do the thing that’s in her heart, and to have pride in it and do it the best that she possibly could.
She almost jumped up and down by the time she had to go, after only ten minutes. She asked if she could hug me (I said sure) and she ran off, visibly excited to conquer the world. I didn’t do anything but offer a few ideas and permission.
This encounter got me thinking. How often do we look to someone else in our lives, the authorities, the stranger at the coffee shop, for permission to do the thing we want to do anyway? I know that I’ve done it. I’ve seen friends and family members do it. And periodically, I meet a writer or an artist who just seems to be waiting for someone to tell them they’re good enough, they’re smart enough, and they should try.
So today I say to all: if it’s in your heart to do, if you can’t stop thinking about this project or this job you want to tackle, if you wake up in the morning and think about this passion of yours, you’re supposed to do it. You don’t need permission, from me or anyone else. You already know what you need to do—it’s time to stop waiting.
If it helps, I’ll say the same thing to you I said to her: you should do this thing that’s in your heart to do. You should make it the best thing, the bravest thing, the most honest thing you can possibly make, and keep working until you have the skills to do what’s in your heart. You should do this thing.