I had a deep realization yesterday, and I realized that I am probably not alone in feeling this way, so I decided to be open and blog about it. I am struggling with writing my next book, but not because of a shortage of ideas, or because the words won't come (though they are coming slower than I'd like), or because life is pulling me in too many other directions. I'm struggling because I'm scared. Of what exactly? Glad you asked.
Yesterday, I spent the day at my friend's beach house at a writing retreat. There were six of us, all in various stages of our publishing careers from trying to break in to a NYT Bestselling YA author. We all sat in our respective seats, armed with our coffee and tea, and spent our days in (semi) silence, working. It was inspiring to be an a room so infused with creative energy, and I wrote two new pages of content, but still I could not let myself completely embrace this new story. I allowed myself to begin another idea, just to see what came out, and immediately 175 words tumbled out that felt funny and fresh and I felt more natural writing it, so I started to wonder if maybe THIS is what I should have spent more of my day working on. And then I talked to my friend about the dark, twisty third project that is so unlike the book I have on submission that keeps drawing me to it to write but it's scary to me because it makes me have to reach into some pretty dark places. She said "Write what scares you."
The truth is, ALL of them scare me, and in different ways. I wrote the book of my heart, and it flowed out of me effortlessly, and it landed me my dream agent, and now it's on submission. Frankly, it feels a little like wondering if lightning can really strike twice. Hoping that I can write another story that feels as solid and twisty-turny, with rich characters and humor. As I've started several different stories, all of which I believe do hold that potential and could be fun to work on, I am my own worst enemy. I am constantly comparing it to the work I have already finished but still, on some level, feel connected to because it's out there on submission and if it sells, I may need to return to it and those characters at any time. And they are like family. A new story is like meeting friends for the first time, having to go through getting to know them and figuring out who they are and what their deal is, and while that's also very exciting, it is also daunting. But as we all know, comparison is the thief of joy.
The fear that I'll never write anything this good again is unfounded, if not ridiculous, of course. History has shown me that with every book I write, my writing has only gotten stronger: the stories are more intricately plotted, the dialogue is more natural and the characters are more vivid. Plus, this is my true passion. I can't think of many things I am this passionate about, except maybe coffee and great chocolate, but I digress. I have been writing since I was three years old, and no matter how many times I have been frustrated by the process, I always return to it because it is as much an essential part of me as the oxygen in my lungs. So where does this self-doubt come from? Fear. Pure, raw, unadulterated fear. While the possibility remains that I can't write something wondeful ever again, the truth is the evidence is stacked in favor of the fact that I can. So I have discovered that more than meditating on which story to write, I need to work on breaking down the fear. It's like a giant, self-imposed road block that is standing in my way of reaching my goals, and I am the only one who can tear it down. It helps when you are battling your enemy to know who your enemy is, and I have discovered that most of the time, it is me.
For me, this discovery feels very freeing. So today, I am starting my Sunday morning with my mug (okay, pot) of coffee and a silent meditation, letting go, best I can of the fear and allowing in the positive energy of believing in myself and my dreams, which at the core of me, I truly do, or I wouldn't keep on keeping on with this. At the end of the day, we are solely responsible for the thoughts our mind produces, and the key is to learn to take control over them and create moments of peace for ourselves. So I raise my coffee mug to any of you who are feeling the same way, and please excuse me while I attempt to go ninja on that bastard fear and show it who's boss and write the hell out of what scares me.