Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Courage Over Fear

Today I e-mailed my latest manuscript to my editor. And, oddly, I don't feel very anxious at all. Nevermind that this is now the third manuscript I've sent since Harlequin bought and published my first and only book so far. Nevermind that I could really use the extra cash in the face of braces, trumpets, trombones, medical bills, car repairs, and the Christmas trip I want to take to see family this year. Nevermind that writing feels so personal, and rejection feels extremely awful.

I pressed send and then pulled up the project worksheet I created a couple months ago, because I have goals. I may or may not achieve those goals, but fear is certainly not going to slow me down or stop me from trying anymore.

Fear has been present in my life since a very early age. When I was somewhere around six or seven years old, I went through a phase where I was afraid the house would burn down and our whole family would die. I would often work myself into tears at night and seek reassurance from my parents that our house was not going to burn down while we were sleeping. When I was around 10, I entered a very long fear-of-death phase. The youngest of five kids in a close-knit family, I reasoned that I would be the last to die, and one day I would be all alone without a soul in the world. Then I started imaging heaven, and I worried that God would get tired of heaven and the whole eternity idea and wipe everything out to start fresh. I would pace my room at night, beside myself and unable to sleep.

It was at age 10 that I also fell in love with writing and the piano, two outlets that have helped me process and cope with stress and grief and even anxiety. But then, I battled fear over sharing those gifts and exposing myself to judgement. Writing is personal. Music is personal. Exposure is scary.

As a teenager, I performed in many piano festivals and competitions, but in front of an audience I could never duplicate the way I played alone at home. All because of fear. My fear of making mistakes, forgetting my music, embarrassing myself....actually caused me to make more mistakes than usual, forget music I had spent months memorizing, and come face-to-face with public embarrassment. The older I got, the more nervous about performing I became. Even as adult, I have struggled.

And so, it has also been with my writing. I procrastinate because of fear. I erase deeply personal thoughts and revelations out of fear. I start new stories and tuck them away out of fear.

I could write an entire book detailing every fear I've ever had - the rational, the irrational, and the downright absurd. When I was 12, for example, my mom brought my brother and me on a trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and visit our grandfather. I was convinced our plane was going to crash, and I wrote a goodbye letter in my diary and cried myself to sleep.

I have always known that fear was a problem for me, but I chalked it up to my personality. I'm a worrier - what can ya' do?

Then our daughter got sick. And you know what? In the face of watching my child fight cancer, nothing else seemed scary anymore, in comparison.

So, I will write and submit, and weather the inevitable rejections, and hope for some fun successes, because my daughter has taught me to choose courage over fear. And God has reminded me time and again over the past few months that everywhere I go in this life, every step I take - He has gone before me. And His perfect love drowns out fear.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Thousand Hours

I decided it was time to resurrect this neglected Web site. It's pretty bare right now, but I plan to add content over the next several weeks. For anyone who happens to stumble by looking for an update on my writing: I'm still plugging away!

Last year I submitted and resubmitted a manuscript to my editor, but it just wasn't working. I set the idea aside in the spring and started a new project that I love. Its completion was slower than I wanted because I picked up a part-time job teaching English at our local community college in the fall. But I managed to complete the first draft of the manuscript by October. My goal was to finish revisions and submit the manuscript by the end of November. 

On November 14, however, our daughter Aaliyah was diagnosed with cancer. (I'm sure I'll have plenty to say on that topic in the coming months, but if you'd like to keep up with her story, you can drop in at her CaringBridge page.) Our entire world shifted that day, and it's taken quite a while to find our bearings again.

I've spent nearly 1,000 hours at the hospital in the past three months, and that is not an exaggeration. I calculated the exact number to be around 968 hours - encompassing her initial emergency hospitalization that took us all the way through the end of November (minus one day at home on Thanksgiving), her biweekly inpatient chemo treatments, her regular lab draws and clinic appointments, and last week's major surgery. 

1,000 hours. And that's not including all the hours in the car. 

That's a lot of thinking time right there, ya'll. (And a lot of praying time and crying time and waiting time.) And every writer knows what happens when you find yourself with an abundance of thinking-praying-crying-waiting time: you start itching to get writing again. 

I'm thinking it's time to scratch that itch. Let the writing begin.