I’m afraid of bugs. Grasshoppers, specifically. And mice. Dead mice. The live ones are creepy, but the dead ones, I don’t want nothing to do with them. Critters in general, actually. Anything that’s not a cat or a dog weirds me out.
I’ve been in my house for 21 years and there have always been mice here. They come and go with the weather, it seems, but I always know at any given moment there’s a chance I’ll catch sight of a mouse out of the corner of my eye. I turned into the living room last week and saw one run from under my coffee table to under my couch. Creepy.
But I still go in the living room, I still sit on the couch, knowing full well there’s a chance a mouse is inside the thing right now, burrowing around, chewing through the insides and is going to pop up right over my shoulder any second now.
How can I still sit there with that image in my head?
Because I want to be a professional writer who makes his money telling stories.
Wait, what does THAT have to do with mice? Nothing. It’s about FEAR.
None of us know what’s coming next. But we press onward and upward, constantly striving. We’re all explorers. There’s no one path to greatness or to success. We’re all trailblazers. What I do might not work for you, and vice versa.
So how do we keep from letting that fear of the unknown hold us back?
WHAT? you say! I didn’t come here to get preached to! Who’s preaching? I didn’t say it had to be faith in God. Have faith in yourself.
When I made my very first short story submission, I KNEW it was going to come back with an immediate YES, WE’D LOVE TO PUBLISH THIS, IT’S JUST WHAT WE’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR! YOUR GENIUS IS UNMATCHED.
Instead, I got a thanks but no thanks. And it was the first of MANY. But I kept submitting, because I had faith. Faith that if I wasn’t good enough yet, I would be soon if I just kept trying. Faith that this was path the Universe put me on, and faith there had to be a reason for that. Faith that one day that NO would be the YES I always dreamed of.
Now, it took a couple of years. I think I started writing in 1991, submitting in 1992, and I didn’t get my first acceptance until 1995? Lots of rejections before then, though. Lots of chances to try again. And isn’t that how we learn? By failing and trying again.
What do you learn if everything always goes your way the first time out of the gate?
Not a damn thing.
We’ve got this department at work that screws up FREQUENTLY. And at the end of the night, it’s the other departments that have to go in and clean up their mess. I disagree with this practice emphatically, and not just because it’s my department that so often has to clean up after them, but because if everything keeps going their way and they never have to correct their own mistakes, they’ll never learn to stop making them. I have three kids and when they were growing up, if Kid 1 broke something, I didn’t make Kids 2 and 3 fix it.
And as long as we keep fixing their mistakes, they’re going to keep making them.
Mistakes are made so we can learn and grow. So we take this knowledge, that mistakes aren’t always a bad thing, and we use it to empower us against the fear of the unknown.
What did the first explorers know when they set sail across the oceans? Not a damn thing. They THOUGHT they knew what they’d find, but until they found it, there were no assurances. But they did it anyway, because they had faith.
And that’s how we have to approach all of our endeavors. You might be afraid to start that novel, because what do you know about writing a novel? Hey, what did you know about mobility the first time you crawled? But you did it, and look where that got you.
You might be afraid to publish the novel you’ve written, because what if everyone laughs at it? Well, they might. They also might LOVE it. You’ll never know until you hit that PUBLISH button, will you?
I have a friend who spent too many years banging her head against the wall of rejection letters and then finally, one day, she stepped out in faith that her work was good enough, but she just couldn’t get past those gatekeepers, and she started self publishing. It’s currently not even the middle of the month yet and she’s already sold close to 150 PRINT copies. PRINT!?!?!?!?! No one sells 150 print copies of ANYTHING in 2 weeks. This is amazing and fantastic and I wish her all the good luck in the world, because she took that thing she was afraid of–Melinda was a staunch traditionalist when it came to publishing, insisting there had to be agents and editors and publishers involved for it to be right. And then I told her about self publishing and some of the success I’d had and she took that leap and now look at her. I couldn’t be happier for her. And prouder of her faith, in herself.
Take that step. Brave that darkness. Set your bare feet down on a floor you know there might be mice on, and do it because dammit no stupid rodent is going to stand in your way. Live in faith, not in fear.