When I was a film student in the eighties, my then-boyfriend and now-husband, Jim, and I borrowed a professional ¾-inch video camera from school and spent a long, magical afternoon taping an interview with his beloved grandmother. When we finished we had two-and-a-half hours of raw footage that required editing, but we didn’t have the equipment. One day we’ll get around to this, we thought.
A few years later, after we’d married and after his grandmother had died, we wanted to keep her legacy alive by sharing the footage we took of her with the family. We agreed it would make a great holiday gift for Jim’s siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We had it transferred to VHS, but when we viewed it, we were painfully reminded that it was raw footage. It needed to be cut. But again, we had no editing equipment, nor funds to rent it.
Years later we reached out to John Crane, a talented filmmaker friend who’d created a beautiful video of his own grandmother, and asked if we could hire him to edit ours. He was busy at the time and couldn’t take on our project, but encouraged us to do it ourselves. “You have a problem with the sound,” he said. “Hear that background hiss?” He told us it could be adjusted if we uploaded the footage to our computer. But Jim had to teach himself iMovie, and despite our best intentions, more years passed by.
The subject of the grandmother video often surfaced right after Thanksgiving, which was our busiest time of year. Taking on a project like that at year’s end seemed impossible. It was this past December when Jim mentioned the grandmother video again. I once again cringed and thought, Yeah, right. We’ll whip it out in all our spare time. Impossible.
But then, a few days later, early one Saturday morning, on the eighth of December, I found myself listening to Michael Neill’s new podcast, Creating the Impossible. I’d read and enjoyed his book with the same title. For his podcast Michael interviewed speaker and author Anita Moorjani. Their discussion was lively and inspiring. When I finished listening, a small voice inside said, What if making that video is not impossible? What if you just think it is? What if it doesn’t have to be perfect? What if you can just crank it out? What if there really is enough time and you only think there isn’t?
Jim’s birthday is the week before Christmas. I knew there was no greater gift I could give him than completing this project.
When he woke up, I announced, “We have a busy weekend.”
“Why?” he asked. “What are we doing?”
“We’re going to crank out the grandmother video.”
He was thrilled. He’d been teaching himself iMovie and had the technical, hands-on editing skills I lacked, but what I hadn’t realized until we tackled this project together was that I had big-picture writing and editing skills that he needed. Although he knew how to use the software, he wasn’t sure how to approach the project. I knew we had to organize the material by first logging the footage and then organizing stories by theme.
We worked 10-hour days for four days and ended up with a half-hour tribute we both liked. And it was fun. It turned out we needed each other’s skills to complete the project. But first I needed to believe this project was possible. It wasn’t until I questioned my thinking, until I believed it could be done, that we accomplished this long-held goal.
Writing is like this. It takes time, sometimes years, as well as the acquisition of skills. Sometimes collaboration is necessary. Writers do well in communities, with support from teachers, coaches, and colleagues. And success is definitely swifter when you leave your limiting thinking alone. When, as Caroline Myss says, you don’t invest your “belief dollars” in limiting or self-defeating thoughts.
I leaned this while keeping my eye on the finish line of my memoir. This time last year I was four months away from publication. I still can’t believe it’s behind me. For years it loomed ahead—it was my future—and now that book launch is my past.
It’s nice to get to the other side of creative dreams and goals, whether personal or professional. And our success is directly related to what we believe about our own thinking.
I’ve started outlining my next book about how to Find Freedom and Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book. The other day I detected a tiny but insidious thought: Who do you think you are writing a book like this? There are many more experienced and worthy writers who could do it. Why you? As a younger, less experienced writer I may have taken that thought at face value. I might have believed it. It may have temporarily stopped me. But I quickly responded: That may be true, but it’s something I want to do. It’ll be fun. I may not be perfect, but who is? The fact is I’m learning and growing all the time and I have tons to say on this topic. Why not me?
Thoughts arise in the mind all the time. I’ve discovered that I can amplify them with my emotions (energy in motion) and belief or tune them out and let them pass. It’s my choice which thoughts to believe.
People create the impossible every day, but to do so, you must believe that you can—despite the naysaying voices within and without.
What “impossible” venture are you ready to create? If it’s a writing project, or if you just want to start writing again, or for the first time, check out my upcoming online writing classes, which begin this month. I’d love to help you create the “impossible.”