Life at Its Fullest
Funny thing about living life to its fullest, it causes tension, trepidation and sometimes real fear. That’s how it is when I push my boundaries and reach beyond what I always imagined as possible.
I’ve spent a good amount of time the past few years intentionally reaching beyond my comfort zone and I continue to do so. My latest endeavor involves a book, my first foray into fiction writing. I’ve written personal narrative, essays and my blog posts for four years and I’ve settled comfortably into the routine. It stimulates me, stirs up my mind, bringing new and interesting perspectives in the mix. But I’ve become accustomed to it. It’s comfortable. This fiction piece is different. It’s new and just plain hard.
I started writing it as a break from personal narrative. I’d become bored with my own voice, tired of ruminating, chewing on what had become tasteless and unappetizing. So, on a whim, I started writing a frivolous story. Just for fun and as I wrote on, I began to really enjoy myself. Letting my imagination run wild was refreshing and liberating. And as I continued it unexpectedly grew into something, something more than a whim. It became a story of a woman who, like me, was transitioning through this era of life; this unsettling time when things change and we need to change with them, as we learn to accept what we must, constantly searching for new ways of being in a world we sometimes don’t fully understand. It became a project that I could really sink my teeth into and when I shared it with a few friends, I was told it was good and they wanted to read more. So, I wrote on and as I did, I wondered if it might have the potential to be published.
Well, that changed everything. Writing to be published is far different than writing for myself or writing for my blog or as a contributor to sixtyandme.com. This meant being disciplined, writing with purpose, being cautious with structure, plot, tense, and point of view, all things that are new to me, things that a real writer would know and would do. That’s where the angst rose up.
I was reaching for what I had avoided the past few years, the possibility of being a real writer, an author. It meant learning to write in a different way, pursing my unique voice, writing in a more sophisticated and professional manner that would appeal to an editor and potentially interest an agent into taking me on as a client. All things I had been avoiding as I proclaimed, I only write for fun.
Now, I’m more than 50,000 words in, approximately half way to a novel and have an appointment for a manuscript critique with a publisher at She Writes, a house that specializes in publishing women authors. I will submit the first 20 pages to her this week and hear what she thinks of my project next month at the Kauai Writer’s Conference.
This is no longer very fun. It’s now work. And it’s nerve wracking.
Yesterday, editing the sample for the umpteenth time, I nearly hit delete and walked away, convinced it was crap. Overcome with doubt and feeling certain I had no business writing a novel. My prose seemed contrived, one dimensional and I was sure I would be humiliated, sitting there in the company of a women half my age, as she looked sympathetically at me, gently attempting to preserve my dignity as she told me so. I walked away from it knowing that was a moment every writer goes through at one time or another and just let it be.
This morning, as I grapple with writing the query letter that must accompany the submission, another new endeavor that stretches me as a novice writer, I feel slightly more confident but still scared as hell, partly out of the fear of rejection, but also by the possibility of a long shot miracle, that it may be accepted and I will be thrust into a new role, a new life, as a real writer, an author.
That’s the thing about life, at least from my current perspective. I’ve discovered there’s a very thin line, a tightrope of sorts, where comfort lies.
On one side lies boredom, a mundane and lifeless existence and on the other the fear of the unknown, the angst of wading into unchartered waters and unfamiliar territory and the possibility of failure. But if step slowly and careful along the wire, keeping my eyes focused on the next step, rather than too far ahead into the potential of success or down at the risk of plunging into personal disaster; if I stay centered where I am, it’s exhilarating and really quite thrilling. The likes of which I’ve never felt before and what keeps me pushing forward to what I may become next.