Happy Friday, everyone!
It’s a bit late in the day (and the week) to be blog-posting, but I’m a rebel, and you’re not my mom.
(Unless you are. Hi, Mom.)
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about courage. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot. From quitting my day job to seeing my best friend take huge steps in her career (GO PREORDER HER BOOK), there’s been a lot of really big, often really scary things happening.
I was thinking about the motivating power of fear.
Recently, I’ve sat down face to face with this very true, seldom outright acknowledged fact of my life: that it’s the missed opportunities that cause the most pain. Of watching something that could be truly extraordinary pass you by — whatever it may be. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a story you want to tell. Maybe it’s a story you want to be a part of. There are so many times in life where we catch this glimmer of hope, this shining little flicker of a dream.
It’s really easy to close your eyes and pretend you didn’t see it at all. That the bridge isn’t there, that there’s no way to get where you want to be.
It’s taken me my whole life to learn A: [start figuring out] who I am and B: be that person in public, even when it raises eyebrows.
“Brave” is not a word I owned as a child. “Generally terrified” is probably closer. As an adult living with anxiety, “brave” is not a word I self-apply.
I recently read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón twice through in a week. That book touched me on so many levels. Personal circumstance mirrored in the book, the emotional tugs of characters I could feel breathing within the pages, a story that drew me deeper and deeper until it felt entwined with my own, prose so beautiful I want to wear it etched into my ribs close to my heart. Through my first read, I thought I would relate most to the protagonist. And I did relate to him. In some ways, painfully.
But it was another character in whom, in my second read, I found my most uncomfortably true avatar. I could see so much of myself in this character, I could almost feel his eyes on me through the pages. He is a very broken man, his life shattered by circumstance and tragedy. And he retreats into words, eschewing the world in which he lives to build new ones. His life is entropy made manifest. Fiction is sometimes our most faithful and unforgiving mirror, even if we shun what we see.
All growth inherently requires risk. In the recent weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time considering regret.
I have one major regret that I won’t go into here, and I spent days discussing it with friends and turning it over and over in my mind. I realised, after all that reflection, that the regret wasn’t something that happened — however regretful the event was. It was something I had not done. Something that perhaps, had I actually done it, would have given me some form of peace.
It’s been ten years. It took ten years for that part of my life, upon which I look back with no small amount of pain and confusion, to show me that kernel of truth. The real root of how I felt.
There are times where you catch a glimmer of hope for a dream. Maybe it’s something you never dared breathe into words. Maybe it’s something you hold so closely to your chest that to acknowledge the possibility of it being in front of you is mammoth and awesome in the truest sense. Maybe it’s a confirmation of something you desperately hoped to be real. That can mean so many things in myriad contexts, and I feel like the last month for me has tried to gather up as many possible applications of this lesson as possible. I don’t know if I believe in signs, and I don’t do well with hints — but there have been ANVILS.
Last week I did GISHWHES. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone and doing things that scare you. I did a lot of that. I drew Leonard Nimoy and shared my (to my eyes, clumsy) sketch with the world. I made an entire dress out of construction paper (that had no back, because I had a fresh full back tattoo) and wore it out in downtown Frederick. I did many things that scared me and one that absolutely terrified me.
And you know what? I didn’t die. All of it turned out remarkably well. Even the thing that absolutely terrified me.
The other day, I got up, made coffee, and walked down into my office to work. It was scary. Doing that meant I was doing THIS for a living. Making words. That the cheque coming two months from now would be due to what I was doing today. It meant that no one was going to pay me but me.
But I sat down and I did my work.
Every day I look around me and see people I love trying. Trying so hard. Working in any branch of the entertainment industry is just plain brutal sometimes. You get told no. You stick your neck out and it gets sliced up. You share pieces of your soul and get a form rejection in response. People go into this also having full lives outside of their art. Financial woes. Failing relationships. Isolation. Disability. Mental illness.
But every day I look around and see people chasing that glimmer. They make me want to keep chasing it. I see them write more books when they lose an agent or a publisher or a book flops. I see them finding the strength within themselves to leave bad relationships or ones that are just not right. I see them writing in the wee hours when their kids are asleep. I see them caring for their furry companions when they’re ill, crying sometimes, sharing triumphant recovery photos in others. I see them finding new jobs that give them space to breathe. I see them reaching out to others, sharing pieces of themselves, baring all the mess we live with every day.
And that’s fucking brave.
This year I’m a mentor in PitchWars, which I submitted to once upon a year and got rejected. Two months later, I got my first agent. Now I’ve got three books out, a new rockstar agent, and an audio deal. Every damn day I’m still scared. But these people around me have given me the strength to keep going, so I want to do the same for others if I can.
If you’re one of the folks thinking of entering PitchWars, you are brave. I salute you. (You can read my mentor bio here.)
If you’re just going through life and chasing that glimmer, keep going.
I’m very, very fortunate to have people in my life who tell me I deserve good things, but the truth is, I think that it’s not always about whether we deserve good or not, but whether or not we are brave enough to embrace the extraordinary when it finds us. And sometimes chase it — because we owe it to ourselves to try.
Chase that glimmer, my friends. Don’t let that regret eat away at you years from now wondering about what could have been. Be brave.
The bridge may be invisible, but we have to cross it to get to the grail.