Fear is a powerful thing, isn't it?
Why is that?
I have an intense fear of snakes. Every time I walk past tall grass, a pile of leaves, large bushes, or something of the sort, I am simply certain that a snake is hiding in there, just waiting for me to let my guard down so that it can strike. I used to always make sure, when hiking, that I was the last one in line on the trail. I figured that the person in front would be the one to see the snake, and I would have ample warning to get out of the way before I ever got close. Then, I started to wonder. What if that snake just sits there in hiding and lets everyone else go by because he's waiting just to bite me?
Of course it's crazy! I know it's silly. The snakes and I have never been introduced. They don't know who I am or what I look like. They don't know I live in mortal terror. They don't know that I once heard my friend talk about how her cat had brought a live snake into the house and she found it in her bathroom, and since then my cats have not been allowed to set foot outside the house and I still always check behind the toilet before sitting down. Snakes don't know these things. And they don't have a vendetta against me! I have nothing to be afraid of. I'm still terrified.
I know that my fear of snakes is irrational, unfounded and a little bit silly. I try to remember that, and I don't let it beat me. I still go for long walks in the woods. I walk past the large, low bushes in my front yard every day without hesitation (though I do always glance underneath them, just to make sure). Of course, I let my husband take the kids to the reptile house at the zoo, but when Daddy wasn't there and the kids wanted to pet the boa constrictor when the zookeeper invited them forward, I bravely stepped forward and helped them gently pet it. I know that I can't live my life directed by something as silly as fear!
But then, I do.
I have this dream of being a published author. I keep writing (and rewriting) books and stories, and everyone tells me that I have talent. All through school, my classmates, my professors, those who read my pieces in the college literary magazine or the small-town newspaper I wrote for... everyone told me "You have a gift. You should do this professionally." To which I would instantly reply, "Well, of course! Look for my name on the bookstore shelves in the near future." I was going to be the next big thing. I was going to be famous. I was going to have a whole shelf full of books that I wrote. I was going to see the world on my book signing tour!
And then I stopped to think about it.
What if I'm not as good as I think I am? What if I don't have a story to tell? What if they don't like me? What if they say 'get out of here, kid, you've got no talent'? What if I fail?????
Well, you can't fail if you never try, right? So I didn't. I pushed my dream of writing aside and concentrated on my real job: being a mother. That was something that I knew I was good at. I knew I could do it. And it was scary, but it wasn't terrifying. I stopped saying "I want to be a published author" and started saying "Yeah, I used to think that I would do that, but it's not really a very realistic dream..." And I was happy with my decision. Mostly. But in the back of my mind, I knew that you really can fail if you never try. In fact, you do fail. Every time.
A couple of years ago, I heard Jason Wright (http://jasonfwright.blogspot.com/) speak, and I was inspired. I don't even remember what he said, but as I sat there listening to him, I just kept thinking, "If he can do this, so can I!" I rushed home, dug out the pencils that I had collected to write my first novel with, sharpened the first one and started to write.
That first novel simply flowed out of my pencil and onto the page. In less than a month, I had a completed first draft. And after a year and a half of rewriting and revision, I am again getting rave reviews. My novel is ready to submit to a publisher!!
Hooray! I conquered my fear! I did it!!!
Now comes the really scary part! I have to actually send my manuscript to agents and editors and People Who Know What They're Doing!! Cue the voices in my head: What if they don't like it? What if they laugh? What if they say 'get out of here kid, you've got no talent'? I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection! (Yes, I do feel like I'm channelling George McFly.)
Remember what I said about fear being silly? Irrational? Pointless?
Yeah, so do I.
This fear is just as silly as my belief that the snakes are waiting in ambush to bite just me while letting the rest of the world go by unharmed. All of the agents and editors of the world are not lying in wait to crush my dreams. They don't even know me. And some might not like my novel. But some of them might. And I'll never know unless I try.
So this morning, I find myself poised on the edge of the cliff, looking down. I'm going to jump! And I'll just have to trust that these wings I've constructed for myself will carry me up to the heavens...