Monday, April 28, 2014

Why I Don't Want You to Read My Book

Today, one of my closest friends in the whole wide world asked to see some of what I’ve written. I was surprised (slightly) by my reaction: I didn’t want to let her.

That may sound really silly because, here I am, throwing caution to the wind and spending ALL of my time writing this book that will hopefully (please God I beg you…) be published one day and that STRANGERS will be able to read if they just pay a few bucks for it.

So why didn’t I want my dearest, darlingest friend — whom I will divulge all of my deepest, darkest secrets to — to read a few pages of my book?

Because it’s vulnerable.

I’m scared to let people read my work because it feels like I’m ripping out a chunk of my heart and handing it over to you. And I’m not even being overdramatic here (OK, maybe a little bit…)

But here’s the thing: what if she HATES it? And then she has to say something to me…right? Or else she has to lie about it. That’s awkward.

I’ve realized that I’m desperately afraid of failure. I’m afraid that my family, my friends, my peers will all think that I’ve failed if my book doesn’t get published or if it’s not a “success” (whatever that means!) Almost on a daily basis, I hear people telling me about how difficult it is to get published or how hard of an industry this is to break into, etcetera etcetera. My own insecurities, along with people’s doom-saying, combine to form (in my mind) a book-eating monster with my favorite characters dangling from its teeth.

So this is what, out of sheer necessity, I’ve decided: I’m not going to let my insecurities or the possibility of failure hold me back from doing something I’m passionate about. So what if it’s a hard industry to break into? I’ll just try harder.

More than failure, I fear that I will back away from my dreams because I’m not willing to be rejected. It’s just a reality that at some point, all of us will fall on our faces or someone will tell us that we’re not good enough. But hopefully that will push us to be better.

When I entered into my graduate writing program at the University of Tampa, I had never had my work critiqued by anyone aside from my closest family members (i.e., Tyler, mom and dad. That’s it.) Needless to say, I was pretty intimidated. To top it all off, my assigned mentor was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, which was the setting of my novel (at the time). When it came time for my workshop critique, I was (quite literally) shaking in my boots. And you know what happened? The worst. He picked apart every single little thing in my writing. What I had written was completely unrealistic and he didn’t hold back.

My UT MFA workshop group in January

At the end of his critique, he said, “You’ve got two options: you can become an expert in Soviet history and write this story from a completely accurate perspective OR you can create your own fictional world where you can write about the same themes and characters but you won’t have to stick to the historical facts.”

This might sound surprising, but I felt liberated. I had faced — and lived through — the worst possible scenario in my mind. (Alright, there was one situation I envisioned where he ripped up my manuscript and told me that it was disgraceful that I was permitted entrance to the program. But aside from that…)

This situation pushed me to be a better writer. And my hope and prayer is that whatever obstacles come up in my writing journey, that I will face them with determination and courage. I know that at some point I will “fail” in some way, shape or form. But I’m resolved to NOT fail in one way: I will not let the fear of failure keep me from pursuing my passion of writing.

What’s a fear that you have faced that you have either overcome or are still struggling to overcome? Feel free to share with me in the comments!