The end of March is the one year anniversary of the release of my novel, Finding Meara. I decided to self-publish, and if you’re curious about why, you can read about that here. To say I had a few expectations would be an understatement. Perhaps they stemmed from not really knowing what to expect, or maybe from watching and reading about other author’s experiences. In any case, the expectations – and the emotional baggage that comes along with expectations – were huge.
Needless to say, the last year has been an emotional journey much like a ride on a zero-gravity flight used to train astronauts. One day some great thing would happen, and I’d float weightless in the belief that the world was mine for the taking. The next, I’d plummet back into the gravity of some disappointment and feel like throwing up. Trying to figure out how to balance my emotions, marketing, writing, parenting, wifing, and working ended up with me not writing for six months. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the ideas, I just didn’t have the motivation. Or the confidence.
Around the six month mark, I started really delving into what was wrong with me. I knew I had to regain some control of my feelings and my life. If I didn’t, I knew I was going to totally burn out. I needed to gain a healthy perspective, but that was tricky. What exactly was a healthy perspective and what would it entail? Was I going to have to “get my head out of the clouds” and grow up? Or would that be giving up?
You Know I’m a Dreamer
I need to dream. Dreaming is as automatic to me as breathing. There isn’t a moment in my life that I’m not daydreaming something. I have proof of this by way of a comment on my kindergarten or first grade report card. The thought of trying to cut myself off made a hard lump of fear in my chest. And maybe this is true of most writers? Don’t we all have to be dreamers to even put pencil to paper?
But tormenting ourselves with “maybes” which never come can be as destructive as listening to worried “what ifs” or negative “you can’ts.” In the essay Writer’s Block (Wonderbook, 2013), Matthew Cheney states: “Expectations put the wrong kind of voices in our heads. The voices of ambition say, ‘Let’s be great!’ The voices of expectation say, ‘You must be great. Or else you are nothing.’”
What Have I Done About It All?
Cheney’s quote resonated with me in a big way, but I only just read it a week ago. I was able to straighten myself out a couple of months ago by doing what I call “embracing being nothing.” Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It can feel kind of harsh, too. But once I could conceive that “it” may never happen – and that my world wouldn’t cave in around me – I was free from a lot of the worry that I wasn’t doing enough or I wasn’t doing it right. I still have room to hope and dream, but with the understanding that nothing may happen and that’s okay. But if we no longer have the fear of failure, of being nothing, to motivate us, we have to find a new motivator.
For me, that motivator is one person: the one who reads Finding Meara, my blog, my short stories or poetry and enjoys them. It’s the person I meet through Twitter or Facebook who decides my writing is enjoyable enough that they will stick around for more. My motivation is each individual reader. And something about the reader being the motivation for writing just feels right to me. Perhaps it’s because without someone to read our stories, they are just words on a page. The reader gives our characters life and breath. They are the best reason to keep writing.