They say, Do something that scares you….
I have Neil Gaiman’s 2012 New Year’s wish on my bathroom mirror and also above my writing desk. You can follow the link to read the whole thing, of course—and if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.
It resonates with me in many ways, and also echoes what some of my writing mentors and friends have said.
Dean Wesley Smith, for example, often asks “What’s the worst that can happen if you submit something that’s not perfect? Will someone come to your house and shoot you?” Kinda puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?
Shanna Germain calls this her Year of Yes. I like that. I like that a lot. I like it so much I wish I’d thought of it.
Back to Neil. He says, in part:
Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Mostly I apply this to my work, my career, my passion, which is writing and, in this glorious new world, publishing. Writers are the worst judges of their own work, and although I’ve never had a problem submitting stories, I’ve struggled of late with finishing stories—or even starting them. A lot of this has to do with coming out of the emotional trifecta of my father dying, my eldest sister suffering a severe aneurysm, and Ken’s motorcycle accident…all of which happened in a year and a half. Oh, and menopause, which completely fucked my brain (and of course I didn’t realize how fucked it made my brain until I went on bio-identical hormones, and suddenly I was functional again. WHO KNEW?!).
Sometimes publishing can be scary, too. Is the blurb good enough? Is the cover eye-catching? I really, really need to learn the newest version of InDesign, and yet I keep putting it off, even though I don’t know why it scares me. Feh.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch says that when you’re writing, you have to channel your inner two-year-old, the kid who doesn’t get that there are rules and societal pressures and people judging you, the kid who’s fascinated by this new shiny world around her. The kid in a restaurant who eats mac-and-cheese with her fingers because that’s the fastest way to get that utterly perfect food into her mouth. Forks be damned!
I think about that a lot, not just in relation to writing. Little kids, they sing because they love a song. They dance because they’re happy. They stamp their feet and squeal because something has caused them to feel utter joy. At what point do we stop doing that? At what point do we become aware that others are watching and judging, that “society” frowns on these activities? That point breaks my heart.
I’m not a great singer. I love to sing, I love music beyond compare, but… In high school, I was incredibly shy and yet I barreled my way through where singing was concerned. I tried out for a solo where I was so bad I was cut off partway through the attempt. Yet I still had another solo in a musical because I went to the music room every day (many of us ditched study hall to “practice,” where “practice” sometimes meant practice and sometimes meant other things) and sang it over and over and over; and by the gods I got up on stage and I sang that damn solo and I didn’t suck. Ditto in college, where I took voice lessons and piano lessons. I think I have pitch problems; one music teacher has said I’m just lazy (when it comes to pitch). Maybe so. I’m not great, and I know it.
So when Rick Springfield announced that anyone who sent in a video of themselves singing a line from the chorus of one of his new songs would be added to the chorus of that song on the album, I thought, Do something that scares you. Sending in a voice recording isn’t nearly as scary as sending in a video (which might be used for promotional purposes, but wouldn’t necessarily be seen by the general public), so this was extra-scary. But fuck it. FUCK. IT. I did it. Scared or not, I fucking did it. Huge thanks to my friend Sara Rebennack for doing the videoing (and for agreeing to be videoed herself. I am such an instigator!).
Wow. In the middle of writing this, I checked my blog feeds (via GoogleReader) and discovered a recent post by Nerd Fitness that totally fits with this post.
This has gone on way longer than I planned. I’m starting to ramble. My point is, I did something that scared me, and I’m happy every time I think about it. In the end, it wasn’t that scary. The point is to remember that, every single time something scares you. It’s not going to be as scary as you think. And most probably, you’re going to feel fucking great afterwards.