Last month, we talking about collecting here on the blog. This month, it’s the opposite: losing. I found myself thinking, what are the things I regularly lose and how do I feel about that?
Like anyone else, I lose my phone and my keys. Sometimes I lose my sunglasses. I’ve lost jewelry. Most of this stuff comes back to me – eventually – sometimes with much gnashing of teeth (I once considered setting a my ring-tone to “where is my cell phone?” by Veggie Tales because I was calling it so frequently to find it).
What do I lose as a writer? Well, I lose words when I’m editing/revising. I lose track of plot threads, sometimes I lose characters (either through murder or because they don’t fit the story any more). Quite often, I lose sanity and sleep. But as I was thinking, I realized there is one thing any writer HAS to lose if she is going to become successful.
I’m not talking “afraid of spiders and snakes” fear. I’m talking gut-wrenching, “OMG I am such a failure and nobody is ever going to want to read anything I write so I might as well get a job flipping burgers” fear. The kind of fear that roots you in place, destroys your confidence and creativity and keeps you from the story you absolutely need to tell.
Conquering this fear is not a one-time shot. I think one of the most heartening, encouraging things I read (on a regular basis) are wildly successful authors, ones with multiple published titles and awards, who say they sit down to each new book thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is the one that’s going to flop. The magic is gone, I can’t do it, and everybody is going to find out I’m a fraud.”
If those best-selling authors think this, why should I be any different?
I find this encouraging because it tells me two things. One, every writer feels this way. Writers are a neurotic bunch of people. We spin worlds and characters out of moonbeams, things that are really part of our souls, put it on paper, and give it to other people. That’s an open invitation to have our hearts cut out. What if people don’t like it? What if they tell me to give it up? I’m reminded of Hagrid’s line in The Sorcerer’s Stone when he’s told he has to send Norbert away: “What if the other dragons are mean to him?”
But here’s the thing: These writers don’t let that fear overwhelm them. They stuff it back in the box where it belongs and go on to write a fantastic book.
And that means I can, too.
Someone once told me that courage is not the absence of fear, but acknowledging the fear and deciding to act anyway. Will I ever truly “lose” my writerly self-doubt? Probably not. But I can lose it over and over again – enough to get me through the next book. And each time I lose it, I know, hey, I did it once. I can do it again.
What’s the most important thing for you to “lose” in pursuit of a good story?
PS: I scheduled this blog to post at my normal time. My responses might be a bit delayed – as you are reading this, I’m ensconced in a NC hotel at Writers’ Police Academy 2014. I’ll respond as my schedule (and WiFi) permit.