I’ve been watching this show called The Bold Type about three young women who work in different departments of a fashion magazine called “Scarlet”. One of the women is a stylist, one works in the social media marketing department, and the other is a columnist. It isn’t the best show you’ve ever see, but it’s fun, the characters are endearing, and the show surprisingly strikes a real chord at times about women’s issues and also questions of identity. I just finished an episode in which the columnist is struggling to write about an assigned topic. She keeps avoiding it and when she finally sits down to write, the words are all wrong. They’re phony and don’t ring true and she becomes blocked. She soon comes to realize it isn’t just writer’s block—it’s really an emotional block of some kind. Through the course of the show, she realizes she has to face her fears to unlock the words, dig deeply to make it an article worth reading.
I started three different articles for this month’s post and abandoned them all. And as I stare at the cursor on my screen two hours before this post needs to go live, wondering what in the world I can say that feels authentic, that would be worth reading, at last, I exhale. What I need to talk about is my own fear, and what’s happening behind closed doors in my writing life, even if it lays bare the sort of emotions authors don’t put out there all that often once they’re published. Perhaps because we’ve grown accustomed to the rosy social media posts announcing all of our successes, or the little things that make us happy in our day-to-day lives. Painting a picture of ease and good fortune to save “face” and all of that.
I’ve recently gone out on submission, you see. I’m watching a book I dearly love, that I’ve devoted over three years of my life to—my characters’ trials and triumphs and the messages they convey, close to my heart—pass from one hand to another. Wait in line to be considered, its worth measured in a process that we all know as writers is so subjective as to almost be absurd. Almost. I am nervous and afraid and excited at every possibility, riding a rollercoaster that dips as soon as it has peaked. This goes on for days and the days turn to weeks, and finally, finally, finally I am reminded of something. I am reminded to let go. I’m reminded that there’s so much I can’t control.
I cannot control:
A world on fire
My published works and how their numbers and percentages convey my worth
I cannot control the person whose desk upon which my book lands. Their mood, their tastes, their list of already-boughts.
And there is only a short list of what I can control:
How I dedicate myself to my craft, to building stories and worlds that whisk readers away.
How much I enjoy the process of it all.
And so, after several nights of insomnia, I’m letting go of the fear, of the anxiety and the what ifs, and I fill myself up with the thing that really matters: the immense amount of good in my life. I take the next step forward, as an ever-aspiring writer, one who wants to continue to grow and take risks. To be brave, even if the cost is high in time spent, and high in emotional and creative energy, because that’s what creatives do. We take risks. We dare to dream. We create for the simple reason that it enriches our lives and if we’re lucky, what we’ve made with so much hard work and dedication and care will enrich someone else’s life, too.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to my book as it floats around out there, but I do know this. I can guarantee there will be disappointments. And I can guarantee there will be more hope in my heart than I can hold. Whatever happens, I have done what I set out to do—I’ve done my best. Whatever happens, I’ve written a story I believe in and for me, for now and for always, that’s some kind of happy ending.