This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot recently, particularly before I started blogging. As someone who likes to be prepared for every possibility, I would use this question to stop myself from doing something. I would weigh up the pros and cons, and then ask myself this question, which would usually lead to me not doing a lot of things, being too intimidated by what could go wrong. This wasn’t always the case, but there have definitely been opportunities I’ve missed because of the way I would ask myself this question.
And that’s how it has potential to be used negatively. If you ask yourself something like this to put yourself off, then it isn’t being used correctly because this question can be used to inspire you.
Just before I got this domain name, started thinking about blog posts, decided whether I should do updates on my projects, I asked myself, seriously, why not? And, perhaps for the first time, I didn’t ask it to put myself off, I asked it in a rational way to really think about whether there were enough reasons to say no.
And there were some answers; lacking experience, not knowing when these projects might be finalised and perhaps even published, feeling like no one really cares about what you have to say, the fact I don’t really love social media even though that’s so crucial for so many authors today, feeling like I would just be speaking into the void without knowing if anyone would ever speak back, those sorts of reasons among others.
But there were also answers to these problems. A lot of experience is built through action. Sure, there is research and preparation, but the best ways to learn, sometimes, is through trying, which might lead to some failure, but you learn a lot through failure.
And sure, these projects are still in their early days, but I adore seeing how things were different in early drafts, how a main character’s name changed or how plot was originally going to go in another direction. So why not do that for myself? Don’t be put off by the idea that things will change, but actively engage with it instead.
Also, I might be shouting into the void, but being silent would get me absolutely nowhere. People might not listen right away, but they might eventually. And, if you’ve been shouting for a while, you’re prepared for when people finally do shout back. Admittedly, I’m still not great at social media, I grew up when Facebook was young, I didn’t get a personal Instagram until a few years ago and I rarely post. I want to be better at social media in order to find an audience and like-minded people, but I certainly don’t want to ever become a slave to it. I want social media to be something I want to use when I want to use it, not something I feel I have to use. I’m still finding that balance, but that certainly wasn’t a reason to not start this whole journey.
People get inspired by different things. A fundamental difference, though there are obviously nuances, is that some people get inspired by a knowledge that there will always be time, and some get inspired by thinking there won’t always be time. This might be an obscure reference to some, it might be viral, but there was an experiment on YouTube last year called Unus Annus. Every single day for an entire year, two YouTubers would post one video before, when the year was up, deleting everything. I’ll be honest, I knew the YouTubers anyway, but I didn’t start watching their Unus Annus content until there was just over two weeks left. I didn’t have quite the experience that some did, watching a video every day, but that didn’t stop the message coming through; your time is finite.
For some, this is frightening. The idea that everything you’ve accomplished will be whisked away one day, that you will live on through your legacy instead of physically, for some, this is macabre and daunting, and not inspiring at all. If you feel that way, I think you’re more likely to be inspired by the fact that there will be time. Life is short, but it’s also the longest thing you’ll ever get to do. If you like to think there will always be time, then this concept is about finding balance in what you’ve already achieved and what you hope to achieve later on.
But perhaps, instead, you’re someone who is inspired by the fact that, one day, you might not be able to do the things you want to do. Again, this might be macabre, but there may come a day where it’s too late. I certainly think it’s never too late to start something you want to do, and I think this past year and the pandemic has shifted a lot of people’s mindset, made them realise what matters most to them which, I think, at the centre of it all is happiness. There has been a major shift in people realising that they want to do more things that make them happy, and it’s never too late to realise that, to begin actively achieving the things you want. However, if you tend to consider the possibility of a future where you are severely unable to do those things, you might be inspired not by the idea that there will always be time, but by the idea that time will, eventually, run out.
This question, why not?, then works for both people. You can ask yourself why not? and know there is still time, so there isn’t a need to rush. This question then becomes a marker for you to realise there are things you want to do, but you have the rest of your life to achieve them.
Or, perhaps you ask it in a way that means more ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ Sure, if that worst thing is nuclear war or serious injury, you might need to reconsider. But if you’re asking yourself, why not? because you want to start your own business, start a book, message an old friend, instead of being inspired by the idea that you can always do things later, you realise there might come a time when what you want to do becomes unfeasible.
Life, in a lot of ways, is about balance. I asked myself this question because there wasn’t really a good enough reason to not do this, to not start chasing this authorship career. Sometimes, you might be someone who usually asks ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ but you do find something that perhaps should put you off. Just because it becomes a ‘why not now?’ doesn’t mean you can’t do things later. There will be time to chase your dreams. I do believe being an active participant in your life is for the best, but there are lots of circumstances that subject your existence to change, and the future is not foreseeable or concrete.
And that’s contradictory, right? If I’m talking about there being two kinds of people, one who gets inspired by a lack of time, and another that needs to know there will always be time, how can I say I’m one of the former when I’ve just suggested the latter? This is where the balance comes in. I am, predominantly, one of the former. The knowledge that the time here on this earth doesn’t last forever pushes me. But if I only ever thought like that, I would be beating myself up all the time because I haven’t achieved everything I’ve ever wanted yet. It’s a balance, a very delicate one, between knowing there won’t always be time, but there might still be some. I’m not a published author yet (though I do have a short story here that you should totally check out), and I’m going to chase it, but there will still be time to get there. To live is to be contradictory, so find a middle and be content.
So, why not? Why not start a novel? Why not find a new hobby? Why not make an Instagram account for your dog? You might find a very serious answer that tells you not to do something, there might be a real reason that you shouldn’t. But ask yourself, is that reason truly serious, or are you just putting it off because of fear, poor timing, a lack of experience? Genuinely, there will be instances where you might find a hazard, and it all comes down to, individually, deciding which side of the knife edge you sit on.
For some, you might ask yourself this question and come to the rational decision that whatever you’re considering isn’t feasible, and maybe it will be in the future, and maybe it won’t be. I’m certainly not trying to encourage people to leave behind all stability, go backpacking across the world, and set up a winery in France without a little preparation first. Again, like I’ve said a thousand times, it’s a balance because we all have responsibilities, some more pressing than others. Absolutely everyone deserves happiness, and I think it’s a real tragedy that, sometimes, you have to sacrifice that happiness because you’ve asked yourself why not? and you’ve found a reason that means you can’t.
On the other side of this, if you never try, you’ll never know. I don’t know where I’m going to be in a year; I could be in the exact same place, or things could be drastically different, but if I didn’t ever try, there is a guarantee that I will be stagnant, in the exact same place. It’s only because I’ve asked myself why not? and I couldn’t find a true reason that opens up opportunities, and maybe it could be the same for you.
So, why not?