Becoming a Writer: Accepting the Power of Zero

The power of zero is the hot topic of this week’s DIY MFA podcast. Honestly, I have never given this topic much of a thought, but this podcast really made me realize how we swing so high on inspiration, then fly off the swing to fall face first in the dirt. Ah, writing life.

It seems like it would be pretty damn difficult to miss your power of zero moment, but since I did, here are some signs and symptoms:

  • An idea slaps you so hard upside the head that you look around to see if someone sucker-slapped you
  • A creative moment inspires you so hard that you delete all your DVR shows, because you’re way too busy and important for TV now
  • You have a lightbulb moment that has you racing for the nearest notebook and pencil – even if it means stealing it from someone
  • This party of celebrating the birth of your new, fabulous idea is quickly ruined by a party crasher

The party crasher is Zero. Bastard. A new idea means starting at zero and that can be downright terrifying.

“We have no words. We have no followers. It’s easy to give in to the fear of being at zero.” – Gabriela Pereira

Looking back at my first experiences with this was really eye opening. I always loved to write. I won my first writing contest in fifth grade and was given the chance to meet Beverly Cleary. I won my second contest in junior high, which meant a day-long field trip away from the horrors of middle school kids (score!). In high school, I’d actually ask my teachers if I could write a paper instead of taking a test. Very few teachers took the bait, but it was a huge victory when they did.

So, why in the name Maya Angelou did I never stop to think I could be a writer? I would be a college graduate and well into my twenties before I said, “Oh. Huh. I like to write. I wonder if I could write something that people would actually want to read?” Geez.

After listening to the Start Small and Embrace the Power of Zero podcast, I realized (with revulsion) why I let so many ah-ha writing moments pass me by. I was SO overwhelmed by the thought of starting, that I didn’t even let myself indulge in the possibility. I can almost hear my younger self (totally unconsciously) chatting these negative thoughts…

  • I’ll be labeled a super nerd for writing for fun (I had already earned nerd status).
  • I won’t be able to make money as a writer when I’m older.
  • People will judge me for the things I write.
  • Who would even read my stuff anyway?

zero quoteThis bums me out. It took me over two decades to finally hear the quiet demon in my head and then another few years to embrace the fear and bury it. I‘m having a difficult time shaking this zero truth flashback. The story I wrote in middle school that won the retreat was about dragons. DRAGONS! I COULD HAVE BEEN GEORGE R.R. MARTIN!

OK – that throne will always belong to George. Here’s what it comes down to…we can continue to miss opportunities out of fear or embrace the zero and march on. I’m finally in a place where I write full-time, manage a personal blog, and work on writing my book at least four days a week. It feels awesome to make up for lost time.

Share your power of zero moment on social media with the DIY MFA Street Team by using the hashtag #ZeroMoment.


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