Congrats to Ruth for winning the iTunes downloads to Aliens and National Velvet. Contact me for more details. And check out my previous entries in this series, as well as Lynn Viehl’s entries—she’s the one who created this week of workshops, and hers are fabulous.
Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity
prevented them from making a first effort.
It’s difficult to achieve what we most desire in life, and so we find other outlets for the dissatisfaction that comes with regret. We find other ways of filling up those little holes left from dreams deferred. I don’t care how small the dream is—whether it’s a house with a white picket fence, or that special someone, or a trip to the moon—when you want something badly enough, only to never find it, you’ll ache something fierce. You’ll suffer when you least expect it. Because no one ever forgets their dreams. Not really.
But you can make your dreams come true—some of them, anyway (because I make no promises when it comes to space travel, time travel, true love, alien babies, talking dogs, unending wealth, immortality, etc.). Folks do it all the time. Take authors, for example. Every book you read is a product of a dream come true.
But you’re going to work long and hard—at whatever you choose to do with your life. You will face rejection, and derision, and misunderstanding. You will suffer uncertainty, and desperate doubt. You will be certain, in one breath, that you will never succeed—and certain, in the next, that you must or you’ll never be happy. You will struggle with yourself. You will be afraid.
You will always be your own worst enemy.
You call it caution.
You call it common sense.
You call it practicality.
You call it playing the odds,
but that’s only because
you’re afraid to call it by its real name,
and its real name is fear.
~Mick Farren, Darklos
There are many different kinds of fear. You’ve got “oh-hell-there’s-a-snake-in-my-bed” fear; or “mother-of-god-he’s-got-a-gun” kind of fear. There’s fear of losing family, fear of losing your life (which I think I covered, with the snake and gun), fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of clowns, fear of mother-in-laws teaching your children bad habits, and so on. Lots of different things to be afraid of. My God, we’re programmed to be anxious. It’s our natural survival state. We’re like giant hairless chipmunks, running like hell when shadows hit the ground.
But that’s a hard way to live. All that fear and uncertainty—usually tied up in other people. It will cripple you, if you let it. Or rather, cripple you just enough that you hold back those vital parts of yourself; cripple you in bits and pieces, until you’re like Swiss cheese—full of those holes I mentioned earlier.
Writing is personal. You open yourself up. You are subject to random acts of (sometimes brutal) criticism. If you want to make your living with words, and be published, that’s just the way it is.
Uncertainty will cripple you. It will cripple you before you’re published, and after. You think that your life will change after you sell your first book, but it doesn’t. Trust me. You wake up the next morning, and you still have to clean the kitty litter. Later on, it gets even worse. Forget criticism—you’ll be worried about sales, publicity, what other people are writing. You’ll feel like a hack, more often than not.
Get your head on straight, right from the beginning. You are still the same person. To quote from the movie Cool Runnings, “A gold medal is a nice thing – but if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who’ll
decide where to go.
I dislike critique groups, because the wrong group or person can easily destroy a person’s confidence. I loathe panels at RWA, RT, or any convention, where other some authors tell you what genres are “hot” and “what’s selling” and “how to write a better (insert alpha male/vampire/werewolf/alien).” Because that can also hurt your confidence, and make you doubt yourself (assuming you have an idea that doesn’t conform with the crowd). I’ve been on a few of those panels myself, and fortunately, all of us authors have always told people to follow their hearts.
Don’t follow any path but your own. The moment you start following a trend, the trend is over. Write the best story you can, and maybe you’ll be the trend. Better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of a horse.
~L. Frank Baum
Life is too short to waste on feelings of discouragement, or doubt, or fear. Those are vampire emotions, and will drain you high and dry. Don’t let them. You can’t ever give up. No one knows what will happen next.
I recently went back over some of my old journals, flipping through the parts written during the height of my unpublished angst. Juicy stuff, man. I was oozing melodrama. Yet, then and now I was keen on visualization, purposeful daydreams, seeing myself where I wanted to be.
And quite a few of the things I wrote down came true, to the letter.
So, though it may feel strange for some, a waste of time, or—God forbid—too New Age…I suggest, as part of another exercise, that you take time to stare in space and float yourself into the future that you want. Really see yourself there. Write it down if you like, or just hold it in your heart—but feel it, breathe it, be it. And not just once, but make a habit of rewarding yourself with the possibilities that make you happiest.
Then start thinking about how to make them come true.
Opportunities wait for everyone. Sometimes when they come, we’re too afraid to take a chance on them—but when you dream, and see yourself in the dream, opportunities are nothing but open doors. All you have to do is walk through to find them. When you get right down to it—past the hard work, and sacrifices, and everything else tangled in your life—it really is that easy.
Trust yourself. Work hard. Be good. The rest will follow.