A client recently asked me, “How did you learn how to do so many things?” She found it unusual that I write, edit, help writers self-publish, create and maintain websites, and a few other miscellaneous things.
It goes back to my parents and the way I was raised. Although my parents were simple people without a lot of worldly resources, all of their children grew up believing we could do anything we wanted to. No one on either side of my family had ever gone to college, but it never occurred to my siblings or me that we couldn’t get a college degree.
When I went to college, I depended on financial aid, academic scholarships, and jobs. I was in a work-study program that provided a twenty-hour a week job at the college while I carried a full load of classes. When I reported to my assigned job in the library, the librarian pointed to a typewriter and said I would be typing catalog cards. As I described in Abject Terror + A Bluff = New Confidence, I panicked when I saw the typewriter. It was an electric, and all my experience was on a manual typewriter. Imagining myself fired from the job because I couldn’t even turn on an electric typewriter, I envisioned myself being kicked out of school because I couldn’t pay the tuition, embarrassing my family who was so proud of the first college student in the family. I could see my whole life ruined over this failure, so I bluffed my way through, succeeded in the job, and discovered I could do more than I thought I could.
After that, I developed the habit of answering, “Sure, I can,” when someone asks me, “Can you <fill in the blank>?”
As a result of trying to keep one little plant alive on my desk, I learned enough about plant care to start a plant store that grew into the third largest interior landscape company in our metropolitan area.
Through the years I was in business, I made a lot of mistakes and I made some good decisions that seemed selfish at the time. I learned to run a business even though I had no background in business before I opened my plant shop.
I learned to speak in public by starting off speaking to garden clubs with five or ten members. Over time, I began to speak to larger groups both about plant care and about business. At one point, I addressed the convention of a statewide nursery organization with several thousand people in attendance. However, what meant the most to me was to hear that I encouraged one person I didn’t meet until years later.
After I had a stroke, I decided it was time to follow my dream of becoming a writer, so I wrote a novel, sold my interior landscape company, and became a full-time writer.
I became an editor because I contacted a publisher and pointed out editing problems with some of the books published by the company.
In the nearly fifteen years I’ve been a freelancer, I’ve done new things when a client asked for a website, layout of their book, cover design, or any of the other things required to prepare a book for publication. Now if you look at the services I offer, you’ll see I’ve added many of these services to my repertoire.
I find that I enjoy helping a few clients do everything related to publishing their book rather than writing a lot of articles or editing a lot of manuscripts. I enjoy the variety, and I get a real sense of satisfaction seeing the finished product.
However, you may have no desire to add more skills to your professional skill set. But there’s probably something you would like to try, something you want to learn, something you wish to experience. Maybe you think it’s too challenging or frivolous or time-consuming. My advice: Just do it!
It’s not too late, and you’re capable of doing far more than you give yourself credit for. So whether you want to learn a new skill, travel to an exotic place, change careers–or anything else, just do it!