Those of you rock stars following my blog for the last year (and thank you for that. It means so much to me!) know I dubbed 2017 my “Brave Year.” I had so many hang-ups with fear it held me back from what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become. Just thinking about that meek, jumpy me makes me want to cringe. The good news? Forcing myself to be brave worked. My gumption from last year to this year staggers even me.
In the spirit of continued growth, I dubbed 2018 my “Risk Year.”
Isn’t risking the same as being brave? you ask.
The biggest difference is the failure factor. To me, Risk + Failure + Learning = Success. In other words, I will risk so I can get the inevitable failure over with, learn from it and try the next thing.
Fail. Learn. Repeat. Until I succeed.
Do I have you squirming like a worm on a hook?
Before you click over to that adorable kitten video. Let’s make that squirming worthwhile.
Go cross-eyed studying it.
Now, fast forward to your 80th birthday. You have all your favorite old bitys sitting in rocking chairs, anchored to the front porch. Your wrinkled significant other shuffles out barely gripping the birthday cake with enough candles to set the Hindenberg on fire. You’re worried your false teeth are going to fly out the second you try to blow them out. Got it pictured?
In that moment, right before you blow out the candles are you thinking, “Make a wish? No need. I have zero regrets.” Or are you thinking, “I’m wishing for the same dream to come true again?!”
Powerful, I know.
About ten years ago, my husband had this exact conversation with me, give or take a few old bitys. I didn’t want to live with that regret, aka fail myself royally, so I started writing. And you’ll never guess what happened!
I wrote a knock-your-socks-off amazing novel in a month. An agent picked me up first try. Publishing houses fought over rights and offered me a multi-seven figure advance. And now my writing career status surpasses J. K. Rowling and Nora Roberts combined.
Don’t everyone scream “LIAR!” at once. It’s unkind.
After a major accident in which I shattered both of my wrists, I pecked out the most embarrassing novel the world has ever known and forced five of my dear friends to read it. Credit goes to them all for lying to my face and keeping how bad it sucked buried down in their sweet little hearts. They had every right to offer me the sound advice to never hen-peck another sentence again. But, through the torture, through the turtle momentum, I persevered.
I went to writing conferences and learned about evil passive voice and the intricacies of story structure. I finished a novel. I sent out queries to over 50 agents. Most ignored me. A few wanted to see my full manuscript before rejecting me. And one told me my writing was so choppy she didn’t know how to fix it.
In the ten years I’ve been at this, I’ve had skyscraper highs and ocean-depth lows.
Did you catch that?
That’s a long time. But it’s my dream. I won’t stop until I’ve created a thriving career as an author. I owe it to my 80-year old self. Scratch that. I owe it to my right-now self!
But guess what else?
Ten years may have slipped through my fingers quicker than the Flash can run, but it’s not a waste. These last years I’ve learned and grown and developed into the writer I never dreamed possible. I love my work. I’m not embarrassed by it anymore.
But guess what else?
In another ten years, little by little, one tiny success at a time, I’ll be even better.
And you know what this kind of growth takes?
Risk. Plain and simple.
I risked going to those writing conferences.
I risked years of honing my craft when I could have been doing . . . well anything else.
I risked showing others my work.
I risked querying agents. And publishers.
I risked blogging.
And despite the rejection, it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
As you can imagine, at the end of 2017 I was sitting smug, patting myself on the back for all the brave things I accomplished, when BAM! Realization smacked into my brain like a blue bird darting full speed into the kitchen window.
That realization? I knew what I needed to do to get closer to my dream, but I kept putting it off.
In other words, I hit my risk threshold. I allowed risk to a certain point and then stopped, too petrified and overwhelmed by the possibility of failure to move forward.
What, you may ask, is this petrifying thing I must do?
Indie publish my books.
Risking in private is one thing, but risking in a very public venue? Heck no. Because then I must plunge into the ever-changing game of marketing my products. It’s a game I’ve researched to the point I know the rules, I know the plays, the terminology, and I can talk offensive game with the best of them. But a stark difference lies between watching basketball on TV and being one of the starting five in a pro game.
Where did this realization put me? Absolutely gut-punch, head-spinning, sky-diving free-fall, naked-in-front-of-the-school terrified.
The kind of terrified that unless I did something quick, I would never hold my author career in my hot, sweaty hands, because I would turn tail and hide.
Which is why I’ve committed 2018 to the risk-failure cycle. I will embrace it. I will love it. And I will squeeze every drop of growth’s sweet nectar from it. And on my 80th birthday, when wrinkly old Tim brings out my Human Torch birthday cake, I will have no regrets.
Now you know me, let’s talk about you.
Do not click on that kitten video. Gah!
Are you still staring cross-eyed at that risk you have to take for your dream? Good.
What’s your #1 excuse for not taking the necessary steps to go after it? No time? No talent? Too many dogs? Unsupportive spouse?
I’m not going to belittle any of this, but I am going to say one thing that may feel harsh. If it’s worth it, you will find a way.
I can’t tell you what your way is. But, one thing I know, the world needs you to fulfill your dream, because without it the world will be a drabber place. More importantly, not following your dream makes you less you. Shutting down your dream cuts out a piece of your heart and your identity. That is the biggest loss.
So, please, I’m begging you, do what it takes to reach for your dream. Just one tiny step. Then another and another and another. And one day, we’ll get there.