Are You Ready?

on August 3, 2006

I had a bunch of ideas to blog about. I could recap RWA, but that’s now old news. I was considering writing an open letter to International Thriller Writers about the importance of NOT scheduling their conference for the same week as RWA, but I decided to make that a private letter so only one person gets mad at me instead of hundreds. And I already lost that battle . . .

So, as I do when I’m drinking my morning coffee (before the brain cells start communicating with each other), I surfed around a bunch of blogs I’d missed while in Atlanta. Over at Killerette Alexandra Sokoloff’s The Dark Saloon I found an article that intrigued me. It was about writing a book you don’t know if you’re ready to write. May, a regular visitor here at MSW, commented with a link to an article here. So I followed the trail–I big thanks to May and Alex!

So anyway, fear is a powerful emotion. What differentiates human beings from animals? Internal fear. We all experience external fear–animals fear predators, and humans fear . . . well, everything ;)– but humans are unique in that we fear things that can’t physically hurt us.

We fear our dreams.

In Christina Dodd’s fantabulous Saturday keynote speech, she talked about the Sidewalk of Success and the importance of walking. Keep walking. If you fall, get up. If you get sidetracked down a dead end alley, turn around and get back on the Sidewalk of Success. Keep your goals in sight. When you reach them, set new goals. Keep moving.

Great advice. But sometimes it’s not a dead end or tripping over an uneven surface. Sometimes, we turn around and run the other way, backtracking. Why? Internal fear.

For thirtysome years, I wrote stories I never finished. I could argue that it was because I was young, immature, irresponsible, unmotivated, busy, yada yada, but those are all excuses. The truth is, fear kept me from getting to the end. If I finished a book, I would have to send it out, try to get published, and what if it was total dreck? (It was.)

Once I got over THAT fear–fear of rejection or fear that I couldn’t write myself out of a paper bag–other fears crept in. What if I entered a bunch of contests and never finaled? Well, I DID final . . . but I never came in first. What if I never sold? I did. What if I got published, but the books were a total failure? Well, my books did pretty good. What if my next book isn’t as good as the last? THE KILL hit #21 on the NYT expanded list . . . what if I never get that high again?

The difference between success and failure is not whether you hit lists or don’t hit lists; it’s not whether you sell or don’t sell. It’s whether you keep going . . . or give up.

One of my greatest fears (today) is that I won’t be able to write the book I want to write. It’s bigger, more complex, with deeply flawed characters both on the side of good and on the side of evil. I conceived of this idea two years ago this month . . . the idea has been churning, percolating, simmering. I even wrote some tentative first pages. But I never felt like I could really write the book. It seems so much bigger than any of my other ideas. Deeper. Do I have the skill to pull it off the way I want to?

Am I ready? I don’t know. I feel ready, I feel like my mind has settled into the story and is ready to tell it. But what if it’s total dreck? What if I can’t take this fabulous idea and make it shine?

What if I fail? Like Alex said on her blog: “I don’t know if I have the chops, yet.”

Neither do I. But to continue Alex’s train of thought: “But that’s the book I want – the one that I kept tossing all those other books aside for because they aren’t IT. ”

Fail? Only if I don’t write the book.

Are you ready? If you haven’t completed your first manuscript, ask yourself why? Fear of success . . . or fear of failure? Everything else is just an excuse.

And if you have finished one, two, ten books, ask yourself: are these the books you want to write? Is there another in your soul, itching, scratching, begging to get out? What are you waiting for?

Get writing.