I vividly remember the first time I went skydiving when I was in college. The rush of fear and excitement surged through me with a pounding force from the moment the instructor told me to step out of the plane. In a flash the things that could go wrong cycled through my mind, such as my chute not opening or landing wrong. Despite my fear, I stepped out and grabbed the wing strut. Holding on, feeling the pull of the wind as I flew along with the plane, feet suspended in the air, anticipating the signal from the instructor to let go—I can still feel it all these years later. Each time I jumped caused the same reaction—however it’s not the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
It was publishing my first novel.
I’m an engineer by degree. I’ve spent most of my corporate career in marketing. Although I knew I was a talented communicator, there’s a huge difference between corporate communications and writing a novel. Also, I can’t spell to save my life. I’m sure you will find a few errors in my various blog posts as I don’t run these by my proof-reader. Not surprising, the concept of writing a novel was beyond left field.
I’ve always been one to believe in things happening for a reason, and that I have a path I’m destined to take. Not everyone is looking for that ‘life purpose’ but I was. I had been discussing this need with my book club gals and one suggested I write a book. I really thought she was crazy—or drunk—but I politely smiled and nodded my head. She didn’t need to know I’d let the idea go from my mind immediately.
However, when fate stepped in a few weeks after that comment with a dream I knew I was going to write a book. It wasn’t, “Could I turn this into a book? Do I even want to write a book?” It was, “Oh crap. I’m writing a book.”
For months I kept it to myself. I was scared people would laugh if I told them. I was convinced they would think, “Oh great. She’s going to expect me to read it since we’re friends, and I’ll have to think of a polite way to tell her it’s not good. Not at all.” They might even evaluate our friendship—thinking it might be easier to break it off than read my so-called book.
A few months and chapters in I found the courage to tell my husband. He only laughed a little, but I could tell he was unsure of the whole idea. However, to his credit of being a wonderful husband he supported me the entire way. After confessing to my husband, I figured it was also time to tell my book club. We are a small group of women that have been meeting for almost 10 years. In that time they have become family. I knew that if I couldn’t tell them, there would be no way I could entertain the idea of publishing it. I had sent my book club what I’d complete up to that point, and made it clear I didn’t want any false praise. It was the most critical time for them to be the true and honest friends I knew they were and tell me the truth about what I was writing.
To my relief, they loved it and encouraged me to keep going. Yet my self-doubt still kept me thinking, “Sure they love it. They’re my friends. And when expectations are low, it doesn’t take much to impress.” Somehow I found a way to push down the doubt and finished the first draft of the manuscript. To help me understand if it was truly publish worthy, I found someone I didn’t know who was willing to read it and provide feedback.
To say I was a nervous wreck is an understatement. I stalked my email hourly around the time she said she might finish. I can’t describe the amount of relief and joy I felt when she emailed saying she loved it.
That’s when I finally started to research the process for getting it published. In some ways, I think not looking into the publishing process until I was done with the manuscript helped me finish. I felt like I was writing for me, not for anyone else. Well, also for my book club gals who were texting me ruthlessly when they needed another chapter! For various reasons I decided to self-publish, not even attempting to contact a book agent. I could tell you all those reasons, but if I’m being honest it all sums up to me being too impatient and too much of a control freak. As I navigated the unknown self-publishing process, I found it to be more intimidating than difficult.
I relied on family and friends to beta read and proof-read the manuscript. I knew I was blessed with amazing people in both these departments, but it really came to light during the beta process. None were shy about giving me feedback and telling me exactly what they thought, both good and bad. I believe that having so many different perspectives was one of my most successful steps in this process.
The next step was where I put my money since I felt was just as important as the content—the cover design. Being self-published, a vast majority of my book sales come from on-line retailers. This meant I had to have a cover that stood out from the others, looked professional, and captured the reader’s attention. I found a designer, Scarlett Rugers, who did an amazing job.
The next scariest moment came when I was finally able to click the publish button. I had done it. I had put myself out there for everyone to judge and criticize. I don’t typically take criticism well and I usually try to avoid it. I can’t even tell you all the feelings I went thorough in that moment. They were all mixed up and making me excited and proud and anxious and nauseous all at the same time.
But what I can tell you is that I survived. More than that, I’ve found the purpose I’ve been looking for all these years. I’m humbled each time I receive an email or review from someone (both who I know and don’t know) telling me how much my words have impacted them.
It has shown me that the most rewarding things in life are the scariest to consider.
If there’s something that you want to pursue but fear is holding you back, just take a leap. Life is too important to spend your time worrying about what could happen. I can assure you, while you might be able to accurately think of all the things that can go wrong, you won’t be able to accurately imagine all the wonderful feelings that come with following through.
I know there are some people who pursue a dream, only for it to not work out the way they had hoped. (notice that I didn’t say ‘only for it to fail’...) I can imagine it must hurt and cause you to think maybe you shouldn’t have done it in the first place. The thing is, that pain will fade. Eventually you will be able to see what you had accomplished and feel the joy in having done something so important to you personally. It might even lead you to something even more rewarding that you didn’t know was in your future.
However, regret is something that never fades—at least not until the point at which you finally follow through.
Maybe you want start a blog, join a gym, write a book, tell someone how you feel about them, apply for a new position...
Whatever it is—don’t let fear hold you back. It might not turn out as you had hoped, or it might turn out better than you expected.
Either way, you will survive.