Permission to Dare

The following is part of an exercise I’m doing with Tama Kieves, who is a lovely and brilliant coach. I highly recommend her book, Inspired and Unstoppable, if you feel like you are struggling in owning your life’s work. This is my letter permitting myself to dare: dare to dream, dare to try, dare to come up short and try again. It was a very emotional experience, just letting it all out. I hope you get something out of it — I know I got quite a bit putting into it.

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For some reason, as I was writing part of this, I felt like Max in Where the Wild Things Are.

I am allowing myself to do it all. I will have the whole cake, thank you, and if I want, I’ll have the carton of ice cream too. And when I’ve doubled over in agony, I will blame no one – not even myself – because I did what I wanted and there is no greater joy than the pain of succeeding.

I will not allow the way I survive to make me think less of myself. I am a success in that I have shown my strength. I’ve lain down on the bed of nails and I haven’t leapt up, letting the weight of my foolishness drive the points deeper. I’ve remained, and one day, when I’m ready, I will calmly stand and walk away.

I am allowing myself joy and happiness. I am making a suit out of my adulthood that I will hang on the back of my door when the day is done and change into my footy pajamas, my paper crown and play. I will do the business tomorrow of selling the happy scribbles I make at night. I will hold the child within me and let her be inspired.

I will not allow the past to dominate the present. The false gods of anxiety, depression and self-doubt may knock at the door, cold-call me at all hours, but I will not let them in. I will not surrender myself to a shadow of time that tries to pry at my consciousness and shake old photos and calendar pages in my face. I will climb the stairs to my room and be still.

I am allowing myself patience and space. I am allowing myself dates and good chocolate. I am allowing myself funny t-shirts and pats on the back. I am allowing myself comforting hugs. I am allowing myself gratitude and attaboys and a list of all the awesome things I’ve done. I am allowing myself forgiveness. I am allowing myself tonight and tomorrow and the next day and every sunset and moonrise there could ever be.

I am allowing myself to be and rest in the comfort that I still am.

Rearing

I’ve read several articles where novelists have compared writing a novel to having a baby. I’m here to say I don’t think that’s accurate. In fact, I think I wish it were that simple. Because, you see, I finished my book and got it sent out for publishing this past week. And can I just say that I wish I felt like all I had to do was carry it around for a few months? That would be really nice.

But no. Just…no. This is my experience:

First, there is the idea. Inspiration overtakes you in this brief, unplanned point of abandon. It all comes together in a moment of passion. How do I not do this more often? It feels so good! Yes, yes, yes, it’s such a good idea. It’s a great idea! It feels wonderful in your head. And…the moment’s over. Inspiration came, and now we’re done.

Right?

Wrong. Now you’re stuck with the result of this brilliant idea. You are obsessed with it, and it, in turn, feeds on you. You start finding yourself making outlines, preparing a place for it on your computer. You start making plans with the people around you. “Soon, I’m going to have a new project,” you say. “I probably won’t be able to leave the house for a while.”

You think you’re ready when it’s all out and the writing starts. That great idea you had? That you thought would look so good? Pssh. Now, you find yourself not sleeping as you try to nourish it into the vision you had. You go to work just to get a break from it. Because it’s not just a brainstorm, or an outline, it’s a book now. Your book. You constantly worry that you’re screwing it up and you don’t even realize it yet.

Then, you get past the rough stuff. It’s on its own feet now, and that means you can breathe for a while, right? Wrong again. Off it goes, out the door. Better go catch those characters, those hooks that are taking the plot in a completely different direction. You start losing track of where all the files are, where all your plans went. Because even though it should all feel more sufficient, more normal, you have no control. None.

And as the drafts progress, you’re hitting puberty with that bundle of garbage. It talks back to you. It asks why you can’t have another character on a side-quest and why you didn’t catch that plot hole a hundred pages before the climax. It wants the keys to your car. You spend more money on it because suddenly it needs a professional cover and you know it can’t go out without typesetting like everyone else.

But before you know it, it’s gone. Poof. Before you even had a second to realize it, it got all spiffed up, graduated from your harddrive to a publisher and…there’s nothing else you can do. It’s over. You start questioning if you spent enough time with it. You get letters about it, phone calls, sure, you can keep up, thanks to technology these days.

But now…you’re alone. And you can never be that person you were before that one, fantastic, fiery moment led to an idea, which led to writing, which led to a book, which led to you here, now, trying to figure out what the hell to do with yourself.