I will readily admit that the majority of the time, Twitter is a time suck. I've only recently discovered it and the flood of information that comes through it is both disconcerting and lovely due to its sheer volume. I mostly follow writerly friends (authors, readers, publishers, and others of our ilk), but have given in to get the occasional celebrity update as well. I guess I like realizing that they're normal people too.
Now, you may be wondering how this little fact relates in any way to the title of this blog post. Well, here's why:
As hard as it is, I'd like you to ignore the beautiful man (thank you, +Ian Somerhalder) holding the sign and instead focus on what that second sign says.
What would you do if you weren't afraid?
Most of us can instantly think of something flippant and funny and intelligent...you know, something that would catch another person's attention, lead him to see our rapier wit while still showing our slightly vulnerable side, and let us move on with our lives.
That didn't happen to me.
Maybe it's just the right question at the right time, but seeing that second sign left me with a strange tight feeling in my chest because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I would do if I weren't so afraid.
My life is full of uncertainty right now.
My job - the one that doesn't involve my writing - is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate due to massive changes beyond my control. I cannot stress enough that I adore my career, but every day I see the profession being forced further and further away from its true goal.
I sent in a partial manuscript to an incredible editor that I never dreamed I'd ever be able to possibly write for.
I'm working on several stories at once, which I haven't done before, and I need them all to be good.
I am willing to admit that I'm a chronic worrier and someone who is always so surprised by success that I don't ever seem to believe it's truly repeatable, but when I saw that question on Ian Somerhalder's picture, something inside just seemed to click into place. Then I started reading the Twitter comments (again, something I never, ever do on celebrity messages) and was struck by the fact that no one really answered the question.
So I did.
It was stupid. No one will ever read my message, no one will care, but that damn question was its own challenge to me.
Worse, I answered honestly. I answered on a gut reaction, one of those horrendously primal urges that makes you type something and hit enter before you can take it back. (And, for the record, yes, I wish I could take it back.)
And the second I saw my comment posted, all I could think was, "Finally, a little bit of honesty with yourself."
The truth is that at this moment of my life, I'm terrified. It's not paralyzing, it's not crippling. It's a slow-spreading poison that eats out your heart and soul and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I can stop its destruction by talking honestly about my fears for the first time in far too long.
So here we go...
My Top 3 Fears
Fear #1 - My writing successes are flukes.
I have been beyond fortunate in terms of my writing. I am blessed to have been published and every day I remember that.
I still have nightmares that it's not real.
Actual nightmares. The kind where I wake up my husband and he mumbles something kind and curls back up around me to try to put me back to sleep.
Part of it is the competitive side of writing. Every time I hear about someone who's signed with an agent, sold another book, inked an audiobook deal, or gained another five hundred fans on Facebook, I worry that those things haven't happened to me because A) I haven't tried hard enough (my default answer to everything), or B) my writing sucks.
The other part of it is that I don't think I've figured out what I consider "success" is in terms of writing. It's something I need to work on and I need to do that without giving in to the pressure placed on me by outside sources. (I'm talking to you Twitter and Facebook ads declaring that in six weeks I can become the next Stephanie Meyer or EL James!)
Fear #2 - I will never learn to love that nerdy, slightly abrupt, learning-to-be-confident girl I was in high school.
My mother is the perfect example of a woman who is outrageously talented, but never recognizes it in herself. My father and sisters are the same way, my grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and pretty much everyone I've ever been around my entire life.
They are talented, humble, and incredible.
In high school I was the abrasive girl who never dumbed herself down and had a small corps of friends who could stand me. In college I was dubbed "The Ice Queen" by others in my dorm because I stayed in my room to study and wasn't interested in anything but getting in, out, and on with my life.
Yeah, I'm that girl.
I've never been comfortable when complimented (a trait that my husband claims made my wooing much harder than it should have been). I turn funny colors and get tongue-tied.
I get so afraid of what people will say when they learn that I'm a total nerd that I try to avoid social situations. Now that I'm a writer (which is something I've dreamed of being my entire life...just ask my family and they'll confirm that statement) and am finally getting brave enough to mention that to others, that anxiety is even worse.
I know a lot of people think I'm rude because I don't open up immediately.
I don't mutually follow everyone on Twitter. I don't share all the Facebook promo posts that I probably should. I don't do everything those articles about how to become a popular writer tell you to do. I don't tell everyone how much I love them or beg for confirmations of my greatness. I don't gush.
Basically, I'm still that same uncomfortable, socially awkward girl I was in high school. I'm just older now.
I should love that girl because if I hadn't been her, I'd never be here. I'd never have developed the drive I have now, I'd never have decided that failure simply wasn't an option, and I'd never have found a way to respect myself, even if I do have moments when I pray I'll become someone - anyone - else.
Someday that girl deserves to know that I'm grateful to her for all she helped me become.
Fear #3 - I will let my husband down.
My husband and I will have been together for 10 years this July (married for 6 of those years). He's my rock. For every moment of my flailing, he remains the steady hand that keeps me on track. He reads all my stories before I send them to anyone else. He reminds me to trust myself.
He imagines me in the best light possible and reminds me of that every day, even when I don't deserve it.
I'm terrified that I won't be able to provide him that same support. I don't want to become so focused on myself and what I want to try to accomplish that I overlook his dreams.
Don't get me wrong, I seriously doubt this will happen. We are on the same page about so much and we talk - genuinely talk - to each other every day. We're like 3D glasses...together we blend into something magical.
That was beyond cheesy, but it's true.
Even though I know I will never let myself let him down, I still fear that someday I will. It keeps me motivated to not take him for granted.
So...if you've survived this massive post, there you have it. My three greatest fears. These are the fears that I find so debilitating.
And, to answer Mr. Somerhalder's question, here are...
Things I Would Do If I Weren't So Afraid
1. Pull out the screenplay I wrote in college and rework it.
This is the story that made me want to become a writer for reals. I love it. It's dark and twisted and about love and demons and faith. Actual demons, not metaphorical. I've only shown it in its entirety to two people (my husband and my screenwriting professor). I think it could be something great, but it would hurt so badly to find out that it's useless.
2. Query agents.
Once again, I've only started trying to take myself seriously as a writer. The concept of asking an agent to judge me and determine if I'm a sound investment is one of the most frightening things I can imagine.
3. Be comfortable singing in public.
I sing. I like it. It makes me happy. I've sung on stage before, but I always shake and forget to lose myself in the music. I want to be able to lose myself in the music.