I must begin by refuting my own title. I gain weigh quite painlessly as I age. Every stolen bite seems to find its way straight to my (non existent) waistline. Trying to take it off, on the other hand, can be quite painful. I digress. My real point is this: have you ever been so afraid of failure that you simply don’t try?
This is my first blog in quite a while. I was zipping along eagerly, really getting into the groove of blogging, when I hit two walls. Since I am a person who gives 100% when I commit to something, let’s say I hit those walls with 100% each. It makes me feel a little better to think of it that way: a 200% impact. Then I don’t have to accept that my real failure was the halt to my writing.
Wall number one I will call insecurity. You all know I went on the writer’s cruise. You had been reading about my deep desire to get published and how eagerly I anticipated that cruise with that goal uppermost in my mind. You may wonder why that was a wall. Honestly, my only excuse is fear, and we all know what fear does to us…makes us feel small, hopeless and helpless.
While I was on the cruise, my spirits were buoyed to new heights. I could feel that I belonged amongst that community–that we were all kindred spirits in our dreams to share our written words. It was a feeling of ‘coming home’ that I’ve waited for my whole life.
When I was young, and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I almost always said, “I’m not sure.” I could think of a lot of things that I loved to do and many things that I was good at, but it was hard to pinpoint one thing I wanted to do forever (other than being a mom–my greatest accomplishment to date).
Throughout my life, I have enjoyed most jobs I’ve worked at for the simple reason that I love to work. I like to be busy and getting paid for being busy is a wonderful bonus. However, I have never found a job where I felt like I wanted to do that one thing for the rest of my life. I usually end up in a management position, but that is mostly because I am bossy and like to run things and I think everyone around me eventually just surrenders. The short of it? Work was work.
Writing is not work to me. It feels like a release of sorts…therapy almost. Had I know the weight that falls from my shoulders when I write, earlier in life, I could have saved thousands in therapists. On the writer’s cruise, everyone was like me. It was a really great feeling. I loved everyone I met. How often does that happen in life?
Maybe because I was in my element, or maybe because we were all trapped in the middle of the ocean together, or maybe it was because the vibe between us all was so amazingly excellent, three agents and one publisher asked to see my work.
This was the moment I had been working so hard for and I should be doing the happy dance, right?
Well, I did do the happy dance initially. I returned from my cruise with renewed vigor. I was going to finish my class at the Writer’s Center on revision, then finish my revision, and by gosh, I was going to get published! Woo hoo! Then, ever so gradually, I began to rethink things. People who had eagerly communicated with me on the cruise did not respond so eagerly to emails. I wondered if I had imagined that I fit into their world…that maybe I was not good enough, and I was the dumbo who didn’t realize it. Insecurity began to eat away at me to the point that I wondered if the agents and publisher had asked to see my work just because they felt sorry for me. Yeah, it got that bad.
That’s when I hit wall number two. I will call that wall, reality (my reality, the place I hide when I’m scared). I wrote a blog and it hurt my daughter. I put my words down carelessly and caused one of my children pain. I would rather allow someone to saw off one of my arms than cause pain to these people who I love with my whole heart. The worst part is, when I read back over the blog, I couldn’t see why it hurt her. That reality took me down. It made me wonder how many careless words were in my novel that may hurt other people.
Writer’s often use real life situations and fictionalize them for fodder. This is a fact that all writers know, but apparently not all readers know. Years ago, I asked my little sister to read my novel for content (you have to have all different types of readers when seeking publication). I feel as though that request caused our relationship to suffer irreparable damage. ‘We’ have never been the same. I can still remember the day she returned my manuscript. She handed me the thick binder with tears welling in her eyes. “It’s all true, isn’t it?”
“Of course not!” I had quickly responded, because truly nothing in it is true–it is a fictional story. I tried to explain how a writer often uses a real life incident and expands upon it, making it fictional. She just shook her head. She believed every word (and the main character in my novel does some pretty racy things). It was very hard for me to comprehend how someone who has known me my entire life (well, since I was four–when she was born) could believe I would commit those outrageous acts. It has baffled me for the years since. (We currently are no longer speaking…my beloved sister and I.)
I suppose I should be flattered that my writing was that convincing. But after my daughter read my words and felt hurt by them, it seemed time for me to accept some accountability–that I was pursuing my dream at the expense of others…that my words hurt people.
I suppose I was ready and waiting for an excuse to stop writing. I was so filled with fear over the prospect of submitting my manuscript and being rejected. That’s not how it felt, but as I write, I realize that is what has happened (like I said, therapy).
And then, I received two messages [from people who don’t even know one another], each asking when I was going to blog again, saying they missed reading my words. I read those words at 5 am this morning, and here I am–blogging.
Although it may seem like I am being repetitive, words hold so much power. Words from two lovely people, Linda and Fabienne, motivated me to put my fingers back on my keyboard. Words from one person, my sister, made me doubt myself. And words from my daughter made me doubt my heart…I actually wondered if I had some evil streak coming to life and revealing itself through my writing.
I have come to two conclusions. One, I know this much is true: I would never intentionally hurt anyone. When I love, I love forever. I still love my ex-husband. 🙂 But, even when we don’t intend to hurt people, sometimes it happens…because we are human, not because we are evil. And two, I am so terrified of rejection, I am afraid to try.
Today’s blog is my first step. I am making a promise to myself, publicly, that I will write my synopsis this weekend and submit my manuscript on Monday. Hopefully, I haven’t waited so long that they are like, “Who is Cynthia Lawrence?” And I will face whatever comes my way, fearlessly. (ha ha ha…that last sentence is just a bunch of words written on a page…I am a work in progress!)
But again, no pain, no gain…right?