My New York Times Experience

By October 1, 2014 15 Comments

Many of you know, I am in the middle of an incredible whirlwind – having an op-ed essay in The New York Times.

The essay is about women’s relationship to praise and criticism, and – I’m thrilled – it’s one of the “most emailed” and “most tweeted” articles from the paper this week. My phone, my inbox and my social media have been full of responses to the piece. I’m breathless trying to keep up, but breathless in a very happy way.

When I first got the note from my publisher saying The Times was interested in considering an essay from me, I was elated…and afraid. My inner critic railed and raged. It had some funny lines:

“You have to sound really grown up to write for the Times and your writing doesn’t sound grown up.”

“People who write for the Times have that very smooth, articulate thing going on with their writing – that thing you don’t have.”

“This is impossible – with the topic they’ve asked you to write about it, it just won’t work. If they had asked you for another topic, you might write an essay good enough for them to publish, but with this topic you are doooomed.”

It said all these things. I felt afraid and nervous and even panicked at moments.

But I sat down to write anyway. Everything depends on that – “but I sat down to write anyway.”

It was hard to write and revise and rewrite with all those voices of doubt.

It was also just hard work. It was challenging to find that place of overlap between my voice and a newspaper op-ed voice. It was tricky to change from writing to women to writing about women. And it was a process to figure out how to write honestly and boldly, because I felt like I was exposing my ideas in a space that felt much less “safe” than the one here on the blog. The Op-ed page of The New York Times is certainly not a sheltered space.

So for a couple weeks, I wrestled. I worked hard. And the fear coursed through my body as I did so. A voice in me was sure – utterly sure – this piece wouldn’t be “good enough” to be published. (Yes, that’s just how that voice phrased it.) And another part of me was sure, very sure, I was going to give it my best shot.

It’s funny, because so many people misinterpret my work as being about trying to help women be more confident. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think confidence is a luxury I’m not going to wait on, and I don’t want you to wait for it either.

I think we need to act in spite of self-doubt. We need to know the inner critic voice can be there, ranting and raving, and we don’t have to take direction from it. We can let another part of ourselves lead us.

There is no other way to find out how ready you really are to take your seat at the table. There is no other way to find out how much your ideas, your voice will be welcomed by its right audience.

I know for me, when it comes to relationship moves, or telling or not telling about something, or making a change in my personal life, I listen to that inner sense of ready or not ready. But when it comes to playing bigger in sharing my voice, my ideas? I don’t take direction from my own assessment of what I’m ready for, because I’ve found a misleading voice of fear yelling “NOT READY!” clouds the real answer.

For today, here’s my question for you:
What is that playing bigger stretch that doesn’t feel comfortable, that your mind has all kinds of narratives about (it’s not the right moment, it doesn’t feel ‘resonant’, I can’t do it right now because…)? What if you did it anyway, and saw what life had to show you about your own readiness, and what will return to you as the reward for action?

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Meeta Kaur says:

    Dearest Tara.

    Your timing is incredible. I am wrestling with op-eds for Her Name Is Kaur: Sikh American Women Write About Love, Courage, and Faith. Thanks to your blog post, I am going to go for it despite the not knowing and not sure of what to do and even what the message is, but I think that is where the work is for me right now, articulating the message. Thank you, my dear. You remind me I am not alone.

  • k says:

    You and your work are important. I preordered the book and it could not get here soon enough. Thank you for writing the op-ed. It is now posted on my office bulletin board, with the sentence “distinctive work, innovative thinking … garner supporters and critics…”

  • Chara says:

    Tara, I love your writing here. Thank you for sharing the story of your self-doubt, because it’s really helping me at a time when I am taking big leaps. I feel very supported by hearing about the conflicts between your inner voices. And I have preordered the book!

  • Nancy Patterson says:

    Tks Tara for your great writing! I find myself in a full-time job search and am wrestling with my inner critic. I’m talented, confident and know I will land exactly where my next career move takes me. You’ve reminded me to calm my inner critic, do the work, and make it happen. Congrats on the NYT…well deserved!

  • […] un article récent de son blog, Tara Mohr souligne que non, son objectif n’est absolument PAS d’aider les femmes à avoir […]

  • Giselle says:

    Sooooo great what you share here – just as the article itself. THANK YOU. Giselle


    Blessings to you Tara,
    You have spoken to my heart and I receive your love and encouragement. It has been life giving.
    I have been writing daily, and a friend suggested a blog and the voices come. This article spoke to my self-doubt. I must come to terms with this quickly as I believe everything is lining up for me, if I just dive in.
    Thank you for the scuba gear.
    Please do all women a great favor. Continue to be you!! Don’t change your precious spirit for any publication, not for any one. You are a writer we need just as you are.

    Thank you again,

  • Thanks for this Tara. I read your article yesterday and my inner critic jumped right in, “see, she’s a real writer, it’s so easy for her, it will never be that easy for you”. I needed this today, I’m launching a new group program right now and my inner critic has been awfully vocal the last few days.

    Thank you for the reminder that self doubt is universal.

    So looking forward to meeting you next week at Emerging Women!

    All the best,

  • Kerri says:

    “I think confidence is a luxury I’m not going to wait on, and I don’t want you to wait for it either.” Tara, I love all your message, but this one, today, struck such a chord with me. Thank you for wanting this for me, for all of us. And thank you for bestowing the gifts of encouragement, approval, and validation through your words!

  • Congratulations…So exciting!!!!!

  • Tara, wonderful expression and I got so excited reading it as I just wrote a similar blog about rocking your boat and just keep showing up. And it’s the just keep showing up that made the difference in my life. I’ve pre-ordered your book and can’t wait to read it. I love your writing and inspirations. Thank you so much

  • Tara – This post went up on my birthday. And what a great gift this particular bit of it was/is:

    “… so many people misinterpret my work as being about trying to help women be more confident. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think confidence is a luxury I’m not going to wait on, and I don’t want you to wait for it either.”

    Many valuable capabilities DO come with age. But the courage to not listen to that “misleading voice of fear” is not one of them. Thank you for this.

  • Maggie says:

    Hello….see, what you can do! Congrats…you have arrived. It’s takes guts..which I call pure determination and spirit and sometimes the two are intertwined a little bit of both to bring the glory. I love that phrase ..Emerging women..that is what we are, leading the way…and yes you are a great writer. I noticed one written blog subject msg. back a month or two ago it…had substance so intertwined…it had me spinning. Another way ladies, you communicate through, is inner confidence, write like you speak, but my best tip is reading written in books and other writings that writers’ write about…their substance…meaning the core of their writing when you glance at their books…is it difficult written? I choose the classics, only the best the way it is written; what is the author trying to convey……..because it leaves you thinking…a well written book speaks volumes in every page

  • Your article about women’s relationship with criticism is a life changer, it made huge sense to me and my friends and has made me less afraid of criticism. Thank you.

  • […] Tara Mohr wrote a wonderful Op-Ed in the New York Times, and followed that with a blog post about how terrified she was to write it. […]

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