Monday, July 27, 2015

How I Define Success aka Kicking Fear in the Crotch

I recently posted about my burn out and how I suspected it was caused, in large part, due to fear. I followed some steps that have proven to combat burn out for me in the past and I took time off. I stepped away from writing all together.

For several days in a row I didn’t write a single word. I didn’t check my twitter feed. I didn’t read blogs about writing. I didn’t read for fun! I stepped back and dissected my fear. I ripped into it like a lightsaber through the fleshy belly of a Tauntaun. I peeled it open, stepped instead and this is what I saw:

· I’m afraid of missing my chance – I’m afraid that while I scale back my writing production to accommodate school I will miss the opportunity to sign some magical deal. You know the kind of deal I'm talking about: where people instantly become stars of the writing world overnight. Their debut hits list and they get a million cool followers on Twitter. Yeah, that kinda deal. When I realized this was my fear I laughed in its face. Because it’s a dumb fear (that's right, I called you dumb *sticks tongue out at fear*). First of all, those magical deals don’t exist. The debut author who appears to have overnight success has really been working away at it in anonymity, behind the curtain, in the dark, for years. My rational brain knew this but that scared, jealous, space in my heart can sing a convincing tune. Laughing at the silliness of that fear helped lessen it. Sure, I might not ride the next great trend tsunami into success but it was unlikely – HIGHLY unlikely – to happen whether or not I scaled back production.

· I’m afraid scaling back my production makes me less of a writer– I must scale back my production, at least at first, while I get used to the new normal of juggling my Day Job and going back to school. I want to guard at least a few hours a week as precious writing time but even that would be way less than I write today. My fear took the reality of scaling back production and twisted into a million “You aren’t a real writer if….” Statements. Which is silly really. If I’m writing I’m a writer. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Sure, I might write less or it might take me longer to finish a draft but as long as I’m writing I’m a writer.

· I’m afraid I’ll have less time to seriously revise (or otherwise respond to query interest – when there is interest) – To be a writer I must write and I’ve got that piece covered. But I’d like to be published someday and for that to happen I must query. But it’s rarely as simple as send letter, send full, sign with agent, sell book as-is with no revisions, book goes to production with no revisions, book hits selves exactly as you drafted it. Actually, I don’t think that EVER happens. Selling a book means revisions. Not just one round, but multiple rounds. With the unknown demands of school looming over me I can’t be certain I will have the time to devote to extensive revisions. So the fear in me said “why bother trying to sell if you can’t revise. Just give up.” I thought about this long and hard. It’s true, I might not have the time to devote to extensive revisions following the query or sale of a manuscript but that doesn’t mean I should give up. Instead, this might be a wonderful opportunity to keep on drafting without the pressure of querying. Maybe I should go ahead and write the entire trilogy I’ve been toying with. Who cares if I don’t sell the first book (or any books in the trilogy)? Every single book I write is better than the one before it because I learn with each experience. So writing that series, regardless of sales, might be worth it for the experience alone.

And deeeeeeep in the slippery wet guts of my fear I saw the pulsing heart of it all:

· I might not succeed at this

It’s a scary thought, right? What if I fail at this? What if all these changes in my life cause me to fail at being a published writer? And looking this fear dead in the eyes I felt….happy. Yes, you heard me right. Happy. As in giggles and smiles happy. Because there is a truth that I believe with all my heart and it’s this:

Success is not caused by circumstances outside my control.

Success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a purposeful confluence of action, attitude, and hard work. That reality isn't changing just because I'm going back to school.

My road to publication might take longer than others (and longer than I'd like) but it will happen. Because I’m committed to making this dream a reality. I’m willing to do the work necessary to make this dream a reality. And I have the endurance and determination to see this through.

When I remembered these things about myself my fears went away. They could (and likely will) come back from time to time but I’ll try not to feed them after midnight.

I recently heard someone say “you can either live your fears or you can live your dreams but you can’t live both” and the power of that statement reverberated through me. You can’t live both. I can’t live both. You can either allow your fears to become reality or you can keep pushing forward until your dreams become reality.

Living the dream is a cliché we throw around but it means something to people. For me, it means doing what I love. But it’s bigger than it seems. Doing what I love is multifaceted. I love my family and friends. I love writing: inventing worlds and characters and going on the rollercoaster with them. I love my kitties and reading good books under a warm pile of purr balls. I love running and fitness and pushing my physical boundaries. I love learning and the law.

So for me, living my dreams means doing more than one thing; being more than one thing. (You know, like being a girl and a reincarnated moon princess.)

I will be a law student in Aug. That’s one facet of my dream. I will also continue to write and edit and create. That’s another facet of my dream. And I will continue to run and race and push my physical boundaries. You guessed it – that’s another facet of my dream.

And in the center of all that chaos I will have my family, friends, and kitties.

Moving forward my life will be different but it will be my life. What I want on my path. Sure it’s scary. But it’s my dream and I’m going to live it.

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