Years ago, when I was living in Palau, I decided to try to write a book. It was a good time to make a first attempt because there are, let's see, multiply by the integer, carry the one, subtract Oprah, 112 hours in a day when you live on a one-square-mile island in a country of 22,000 people on the equator.
Even more, there are only nine things to do in Palau. Five of those involve coming in close contact with sea snakes and the other four are eating.
And you people thought I couldn't do math.
I think I became a much better writer during that year. Typing out 95,000 words will do that. But I was young, and pretty dumb, and moderately to severely depressed, so I really didn't know what I was doing.
By the time I moved back to the United States of God Bless Sea Snakeless America, I didn't really know what to do with those 95,000 words. I did some research about how to get a book published, and I even contacted some people who were kind enough to give me feedback and advice. But that whole process was incredibly daunting and intimidating. So I just sort of walked away from it without really trying very hard.
I know you guys can't relate. None of you have ever let fear or intimidation stop you from doing anything. Not since you stormed the beaches of Normandy.
Yes, I imagine that everyone who reads Stranger is a World War II vet. Also, I know I don't say this enough, but thank you for your service.
The years started to get away from me after Palau (going on 6 years since I left the place YOU PEOPLE ARE GETTING OLD). And as my life embarked on a roller coaster of working constantly while choosing to become gay, that old project just sort of fell into my bin of Things I Wish I Would Do But I'm Too Afraid So Now I Just Let Them Make Me Feel Bad About How Big Of A Failure I Am.
I pretty much used up all of the ink in my label maker that day.
I periodically decide that I'm going to pick it back up, and figure something out, but my writing and what I think I want to put out into the world has evolved so much since 2012 that every time I read any part of that old project, it just doesn't feel like me anymore. It feels safe and jumbled and there aren't nearly enough references to Liza Minnelli.
A few months ago I was riding a spin bike at the gym, listening to some pretentious podcast, but not really paying attention to it. I was thinking about writing and how much this particular dream was weighing on me. Not really the writing aspect so much, but more everything that comes after completing a first draft. I was thinking about how daunting trying to figure out how to get something published feels. How impossible it seems.
And it just finally hit me. Who cares?
Who cares if it feels nearly impossible? What does it matter if I fail at this? Would that seriously be worse than constantly feeling like I'm not good enough to be interacting with people who stormed the beaches of Normandy?
This morning I woke up and saw that J.K. Rowling tweeted (she's this British author who wrote some children's books back in the 90s and early 2000s about a boy who finds out he's a -- oh, you know what -- just look her up if you're interested. You can probably find her works listed somewhere on the Internet). She posted a little thing to her website, offering advice to people who want to be writers.
In one section, she wrote about the feelings I described above:
"Fear of failure is the saddest reason on earth not to do what you were meant to do. I finally found the courage to start submitting my first book to agents and publishers at a time when I felt a conspicuous failure. Only then did I decide that I was going to try this one thing that I always suspected I could do, and, if it didn't work out, well, I'd faced worse and survived.
Ultimately, wouldn't you rather be the person who actually finished the project you're dreaming about, rather than the one who talks about 'always having wanted to'?"
I like it, and I think she's right.
So recently, I started over. I have forced myself to sit down and write what I want to write. I have made myself immerse my mind in this project in a way I never really did before. And although daily I have this fear nagging me in the back of my mind that I'm not going to be good enough and I'm never going to figure out how to get anything published, it is finally being overtaken by some fatigued pride that if this doesn't work out how I dream, it won't be because I was too afraid to try.
~It Just Gets Stranger