Then again, maybe not.
I'm finally almost done the Boiled Cat website - and just in time. The book should be out within weeks. I have a t-shirt shop set up. I've read proofs, both hard copy and online. I've made numerous phone calls and dealt with a multitude of interruptions. I've read 15 pages of legalize to understand all the things I was signing. I think I get it. I think I've made good decisions - but sometimes I wish I could peek forward to see if I've done everything right.
Then again, maybe not.
Some of the people I most admire talk about fear. How they felt it during their work. How during a new endeavour, that later became such a defining moment in their career, at the beginning, terrified them. Many of them felt like a fraud about to be caught out. And it’s not the people you would expect. It’s people you look at now and say – wow, he or she really knew their path. But they didn’t. It was a gamble. But instead of running from their fear, they put forth extraordinary effort, stood steady in the trembling wind. And what I’ve learned from this is that you can’t fail without trying. And that failure is in itself a reward for trying. Therefore failure is not a negative thing. It is a leap. A badge proving you went forward. That you are more than the ones who turned away when the terrifying task was set upon the table. And do not forget that alongside failure is success – which you also do not gain without attempt.
So whether I succeed or fail, no matter how afraid or fraudulent I feel at the task set before me – I am going forward and I will see just what happens. Whatever it is, it may well be extraordinary.
Ahh! The cover of my new, self published book Boiled Cat came in today. I was asked which draft I liked (there were two) and what changes I wanted (I get to make changes twice and then it's set in stone - unless I pay more money). This is so stressful! I toyed with the cover. Tried to make it as best I could. I tried to make it appealing. Made notes. Felt sick to my stomach. Second guessed myself. Then finally sent everything back to the publisher. Now I have to wait five days to find out if I made the right choices. This self publishing thing is hard. I wish I had a crystal ball to see how it all ends. Then again... maybe not.
When I was in high school the school counsellor asked me what I was going to do after school. Of course I said, “I’m going to be a writer.” At this point I had already written a novel, had a one act play produced that did quite well in the local festival and had the same play reach the top five in a province wide playwriting competition against adults. So I was well on my way. Not to mention that even with the three or more hours of high school homework and studying I had every night, I regularly managed to pound out another two to four hours of writing a day too. Mind you, I didn’t have a job. Still, I was a writer and that was that. My school counsellor didn’t see things quite my way. “You can’t be a writer,” she said. “You won’t make any money.”
I recently saw a similar conversation directed at one of the kids I met this summer. “You can’t be a writer. Why not do what your parents did? They’re successful.” I’m afraid to say, this girl is already is writer, and a damn good one at that. With no real training, she just writes from the heart. Says what is on her mind, and it blows me away every time. So telling her that she can’t be a writer isn’t going to play out well for anyone.
Besides, being a writer isn’t something we choose. It’s what we are. You don’t decide to be a writer. Not in my experience. You either are one or you aren’t. You either spend hours fiddling with words, desperately searching for a way to make your words better, to ring truer, to be brighter, or you do something else. Find excuses. Do laundry. And not everyone who likes to write is a writer. But when you are a writer, having someone tell
you that you can’t be one – doesn’t work. You can’t just stop being a writer. There isn’t any way around it. It’s like telling someone that they can’t be human. How the heck would you pull that off?
So to all you struggling writers out there. Don’t listen to the can’ts. Don’t worry about the don’ts. Just write. You have to anyway. So why fret. Trying to explain this passion to those people is a waste of time. Besides you have better things to do – like writing.
The writer sits, staring at the screen. “No,” she mutters, looking at the words she has spent the last many months creating. “No, not good enough. No one will like it. I doubt there’s even a market. Even if there is, somebody’s done it better than me.” Still she reluctantly saves the document before shutting the computer off and walking away. And so it goes for fifteen long years.
Yeah, that was me. Afraid of rejection. Afraid to even try. I returned to the same novel time and again, revising and revising. Never ready to take the next step. Too fearful of the unknown.
Fear of failure is nothing new to writers. After all who likes to be told, “we don’t want you.” It’s like a blow to the chest. There’s really no preparing yourself. Still, it’s something we all have to go through if we really want to be published authors. We have to walk through the fire. Temper steel. Face our fears.
What ended up helping me was to look at some of the authors I admired and really see their journey. After all no one starts out famous. Superman took five years to get published. Stan Lee almost lost his job when he first suggested Spiderman. Stephen King felt so bad about his rejection by Random House he filed away his first novel, “The Long Walk”. Even his novel Carrie began as a few pages thrown in the trash, only to be rescued by his wife, who insisted he continue. J.K. Rowling was told that nobody would want to publish Harry Potter because it was too long and set in a boarding school. It took her agent a year to sell the manuscript. My favorite manga author, Masashi Kishimoto, spent all of high school and most of art college trying to win the Hop Jump award. When he finally did, and had a professional editor to work with, he was rejected for over year before finally hitting on Naruto. The thing is, nobody makes it overnight. Period. Every author has to face rejection.
So I finally took a gulp of courage and submitted a few chapters of Boiled Cat to Orca Press. To my delight, they asked for the rest of the novel, only to later reject it. But it gave me hope and more importantly, much needed experience. Now I have two books published, I’m starting my journey into self-publishing, and I still have more than a few rejection letters under my belt. And you know what? Rejection still sucks, but the truth about fear is, it gets less the more you face it.
So no more talking down to yourself. Finish your manuscript, story or poem and head for the stars. What’s the worse that can happen? You end up right where you were, but a little wiser and much more brave.
Writer, Teacher, Mutant. What more could you want?