Last spring, I wrote this. I was hoping that the thing that was going to be a thing would actually become a thing a month or two after I published that post. But it didn’t become a thing. Until now. This is why.
I would like to say that I overthought parts of it, and I did. I ended up trimming back much of those several thousands of lines of code to less than a thousand. Simple is always better, but when electrons are cheap, it’s easy to get carried away.
I would like to say that I underthought other parts of it, especially the money part, and I did. (I can manage my own money, thank you, but I’m not comfortable talking to other people about their money, especially when I’m asking them to part with even a small chunk of it.)
But the biggest thing that held me back, that kept me from moving forward with it, was fear. Fear that I wouldn’t know where to start, fear that I wouldn’t know how to keep it going once it really got rolling, fear that no one would take me seriously once I put it out there (sure your friends and family will always give you a big thumbs up; but that’s because they’re hoping you’ll fix their printer later), fear that I was not qualified to be an editor, fear that it (I) would fail and people would laugh and point and say “I told you so!”
That seems like a lot of things to be afraid of, but most people who try to do something important have a similar list of fears. They only seem like a lot because I’ve enumerated them, brought them out into the light. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
Fear that I wouldn’t know where to start. Hell, that’s just silly. In the space of half an afternoon, I registered a domain, created a theme, started a new Twitter account (@Obsidian Journal, and created a Facebook page. I even had time left over for a quick nap.
Fear that I wouldn’t know how to keep it going once it got started. Most new business ventures fail in the first five years—a fact I know both from research and experience. If any of my fears were real it was this one. But I also know from experience that once you’ve gotten a venture off the ground, it’s not really off the ground. You’ve got to keep doing all the things you did when you were just starting—reaching out, exploring new venues, new opportunities. You’ll know you’ve reached cruising altitude when people start reaching out to you. And as soon you think “well, I’ve arrived now” and think you can stop doing all the reaching out, all the exploring new venues and new opportunities, you can’t. You can never stop doing this, or your venture will stall and fail. You’ve got to be like the Starship Enterprise, boldly going where you’ve never gone before, seeking out new people and new opportunties. It’s an ongoing mission.
Fear that no one would take me seriously once I put it out there. This one is easy—you can’t expect anyone to commit to something you haven’t fully committed to yourself. Despite what some people think, commitment is easy—you just get up every day and make the same decision you made the day before. Whatever it is you need to do every day to make it happen, you need to do every day. It’s as simple as that.
Fear that I was not qualified to be an editor. This bugged me for a long time. A long time. But then I though, who the hell is? There are degree programs in editing, but for most editors, becoming an editor is the result of a series of happy accidents: being a lifelong reader, having some facility with writing, enjoying working with new and developing writers, always finding the next new exciting thing, seeing how an unimaginably diverse group of stories somehow forms a coherent whole. So basically, being an editor involves using a set of skills I’ve been employing and refining my entire life, only now I’m making them public. That’s the scary thing about being an editor: I’m making my tastes public.
Fear that I would fail and people would point and laugh. This is just high school hangover. Some people are just happy to see other people fail. These are often the same people who are unhappy to see other people succeed. Succeed or fail, they are just never going to be on your side. To hell with them!
When you bring your fears out into the light is that you see how little they are. How nothing they are. How they only have power because you give them power. But when we give our fears power, they have all the power. The power to destroy dreams, the power to destroy entire worlds.
The way to get rid of fear is to replace it with something else. Sometimes, the universe will drop something perfect into your lap; other times, you have to go find that thing yourself.
For me, that was books. My local library has a book sale six times a year, but they always have some premium books on a shelf near the check-out desk for a buck or two. At the end of August, Seth Godin’s Poke the Box was sitting on that shelf, waiting for me. I had been aware of this book for some time, but had never had my hands on it. And now it was mine. If you’re not familiar with the book, its entire premise is to say yes to doing new things:
We have built the largest economic engine in history. All the tools are here, cheaper than every before. The market is waiting, the capital is waiting, the factories are waiting, and yes, even the stores are waiting.
They’re waiting for someone to say “go.”
If you don’t know how to do something, that’s okay:
All great programmers learn the same way. They poke the box. They code something and see what the computer does. They change it and see what the computer does. They repeat the process again and again until they figure out how the box works.
The box might be a computer or it might be a market or it might be a customer or it might be your boss. It’s a puzzle, one that can be solved in only one way—by poking.
There is wisdom on every page, but the point is this: the world is waiting for you to say “let’s do this thing”. Every day a lot of great ideas never get off the ground because the people who have them are waiting for someone write them a hall pass to go do it, to make a little badge for them that says “writer” or “artist” or “editor”. People are waiting for you to press the start button. So press it.
So I did. And now we have Obsidian: A Journal of the Speculative and the Fantastic. Stop by, take a look around, buy a subscription, send in a submission. The box is poked.© 2017 Kenneth John OdlePermalink for this article: