What Scared Me and Still Sorta Does (Jody Casella)
For many years I was afraid. Afraid of pursing my dream to be a published writer. Afraid to work on books that people might not like--might not ever read. Afraid to submit my stuff and risk rejection. Afraid even to say OUT LOUD to anyone that I was a writer because then the next question would be, "So where can I buy your book?" and I'd have to say, Nowhere.
But the thing is, I really like writing and it's been a constant part of my life for as long as I can remember. In the end I came to the conclusion that it was what I was going to do, regardless if any of my stuff ever made it officially into print.
This angsty thought process took a freaking long time and probably annoyed the heck out of everyone I know. Many days my husband and kids tiptoed into the house wondering if they'd find me boo-hooing over a rejection letter or ranting like a maniac about the unfairness of the publishing industry or flying high about an exciting lead (that inevitably went nowhere).
The house was a disaster area. We all struggled through multiple nights of chocolate chip pancakes. (Side note: I didn't even realize this was my default meal until my then eleven year old daughter asked if I could make chocolate chip pancakes for her school's Family Cultural Food Day. I thought she'd want me to whip up my famous spaghetti sauce--see, I do know how to cook other things--but no, she said, Pancakes is the dinner that represents us, Mom.)
Anyway, over the years I came to grips with the roller coaster submission process by suffering through my own version of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief. After those first rejections, (for horrible manuscripts that will never see the light of day, and shouldn't) I was in denial--ME? How could they reject ME? Later, I grappled with anger--that it was taking sooooo long, that those heartless editors and agents just didn't get my stuff. And bargaining--I'll revise! I'll do whatever you suggest! Just give me a chance! Then came the depression--why am I doing this? What's the point? What if this silly dream of mine never comes true?
Until finally, I reached Acceptance. Somewhere along the way it simply occurred to me that I feel better when I write. The publishing part of it is out of my control and has nothing to do with the Me that sits in front of the computer every day writing. So, five days a week I set a word count goal and I don't shut my computer down until I do it.
This worked. I faced my fear of failure by writing my words. When I got rejections, when a deal that seemed so close fell apart, when my agent quit--I wrote my words, and always felt better. It was like magic.
And then my magical solution was truly tested. It happened when I least expected...and I got a book deal. Someone wanted the sixth book I wrote (it was three years after I'd written it and I wrote four more books in the meantime. This is another consequence of writing your words.) The day I got the call, I was stunned.
I walked around my messy house in a daze. I called my family and friends. I cried. I did laundry. I started thinking about dinner. Chocolate chip pancakes? Until a friend suggested that I take my family out to eat for crying out loud and celebrate. Good idea. I cried some more. I did more laundry. After a few hours of that I didn't know what to do with myself. I had been in the middle of my usual word count goal when the call came and suddenly it hit me that I had to go back to that. I had to write.
It was hard to concentrate. My mind kept wandering to my book deal. Wouldn't it be okay, on this day of all days, to not write? But something told me no. I was the person who wrote my words no matter what. I'd written through tears before, and sickness, and bone-crushing depression. What was I made of if I couldn't write through success?
Let me tell you, they were very hard words to write and the section I worked on was basically crap, but I felt great anyway. That night when my family and I celebrated at International House of Pancakes (I am totally kidding. We did not eat pancakes.), I was prouder of myself for having completed my word count goal than for getting a book deal.
Okay, I'm kidding about that too.