On Fear

PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH I have never been one to take risks. I often tell my friends, "I need a schema..." and this has become our shorthand for my deep need to understand what is going to happen, to know how things will turn out.

In the past three years, however, I have found myself without a schema, making my way with only a vague idea and a sense of faith that is unusual for me.

My decision to devote time to writing a book was a risk.

My decision to leave my job to finish that book was a risk.

And now, I find myself nearly finished with the book and it is time to submit my manuscript to agents for consideration which feels like the greatest risk of all.

What if it isn't good? What if no one wants it? What if people think my writing is too introspective and self-indulgent? What if I've put three years of my life into something that will forever reside on the hard drive of my computer?

What if I fail?

I have never taken risks because I'm scared, because it is easier to think of all that I might be able to do rather than deal with the reality that I can't do them at all.

This year has been about taking risks, about saying "yes" to things that frighten me, to living without a plan.

I submitted my manuscript to an agent for the very first time last month and received a rejection letter this week and it stung more than I'd like to admit. The note itself was kind and complimentary - I can see that now. I can see the good in it and take pride in the fact that a complete stranger thought my words beautiful.

But, in the moment, I could only hear "It's not good..." and "It's self-indulgent..." and "You'll never publish this." I thought about scrapping the whole thing. I convinced myself that I should have written a novel. Then, I decided that I should quit working on the book and focus on blogging. Then, I decided that I shouldn't write at all and I should just make chocolate chip cookies and then I realized we didn't have any fucking chocolate chips. Of course.

And then I talked to friends and I got a good night's sleep and I thought about it and realized something important. This was my first rejection because I've never tried, never taken a risk until now. I am 0 for 1. When I look at it like that, I'm annoyed at myself for allowing the pity party to go on as long as it did.

This morning, I told Luisa that my only goal for today was to write. I knew that I needed to put my fingers on the keyboard and finish what I started without worrying about what comes next.

So, I sat down at my desk and I pulled up one of the essays from my book that I love and I read it. This is dangerous for me because I sometimes read pieces like this one and think I can never write anything I will love as much. But I read it and then came to this part,

I want her to know how to navigate, to know how to right a ship when it lists dangerously to one side. I want her to learn that, sometimes, we have to sit with our fear to understand that it passes, that we can survive it.

Today, I will sit with my own fears and put words on the page and move forward.