“Well if you’re going to look it up, read it out loud so I can at least remember what I wrote.” I am talking to a friend who is looking at something The Smile Project published 8 years ago in 2014.
When they’ve finished reading my own words back to me, I groan. “Oh man, that makes me never want to publish anything publicly ever again. It’s super cringey, isn’t it?”
I make a mental note that 8 years from now, I’ll probably imagine it cringey to say cringey.
My friend interjects. “It’s not necessarily that this is bad. It’s just that you write better now. But that’s because you kept writing.”
I think about how the day prior we were talking about how I would like to intentionally create space in my daily life for non-work, non-Smile writing. I want to interrupt their words with denial, but they continue.
“Sure, you’re a better writer now but that doesn’t mean this is awful. And even if it were, that’s fine. You’re still putting stuff out there. I would hope you aren’t writing now how you wrote then. You keep writing. So it keeps getting better.”
You keep doing it. So it’s going to get better.
Five and a half months ago, at the encouragement/challenge of a colleague, I started doing a daily 2 minute plank. At first it was excruciately difficult. Then it got a little easier. Then it got, dare I say, fun?
You keep doing it. You keep getting better.
There’s a Chinese proverb I really like about “the best time to plant a tree being 20 years ago and the second best time being now.”
It’s going to take some time to become a good writer. It’s going to take some time to get good at daily planks. It’s going to take some time to do anything worth pursuing.
So why do we do it? Why do we struggle through those “beginner” months where we feel like some sort of baby animal desperate to learn to walk but instead repeatedly crashing onto our faces.
Because it’s now or later. And how soon later becomes never.
Think about something you’re deeply passionate about: tennis, programming, public speaking, etc. You may have some natural ability or predisposition to enjoy this hobby or activity. But are you the same athlete, engineer, musician, or designer who first learned what that word meant?
Of course not. You kept going.
So this week I encourage you to return to something you did when you were just getting started. An old poem or lesson plan or painting. See how you’ve grown—not from a place of embarrassment or shame, but from a place of perseverance and pride. Then keep going.