Here’s the thing about New Year’s resolutions: I could resolve all day long to do things like take my vitamins every day or exercise at least twice a week. In the end, I would still ignore the alarm that beeps on my phone every morning at 7am, reminding me to down the iron and calcium and what not. I would also fail to recover the pair of tennis shoes lost somewhere deep in the shadows of my closet.
Resolutions don’t work for me. But, mantras and mottos do.
When I made the decision several years ago to (seriously) pursue this whole writing idea, I did so with one phrase in my mind: Why not?
What’s the worst that could happen? I thought. I would fail? I was already failing to write by lamenting about the fact that I wanted to write stories and yet only put pen to paper in order to jot down a to-do list or scratch out an occasional journal entry. Why not just do it? Stop whining and start writing.
Why not sign up for NaNoWriMo?
Why not start a writing blog?
Why not contact that best-selling author and ask if she’d let me interview her?
In that year, I finished NaNoWriMo and got my blog rolling and off to a decent start. And that best-selling author I contacted? Beth Hoffman said yes right away and launched my author interview series. Beth has also become an author I want to emulate; she encourages emerging writers, even as she continues to receive accolades for Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt and prepares to release her next novel. Not every author holds a hand out to others. And, I might not have met this woman had I supressed my initial rally cry, Why not.
Why not gave me the initial push to pursue what I wanted, but over the holiday break, I fell into a lull. You know, that place all writers fall into, where we consider what we’ve done and try to figure out where the heck we’re headed. Then, I read a random mass email that opened with two motivating words, Fearless Writers, and it hit me. This year, I needed a new rally cry, one that would drive me to tackle goals with reckless abandon: Fearless writing.
When I say fearless writing, I don’t mean just finishing that short story or submitting that memoir piece. It isn’t only about completing the next big rewrite of my novel or finally compiling that collection of flash fiction pieces (though all of these things are part of the big picture). I say those two words with more intention. Fearless writing also means stepping out of my comfort zone, doing things that move my writing career forward in ways I want but have been afraid to pursue.
This week, fearless writing means filling out an application to work with some great writers in a position I want but am either 1) afraid I won’t get, because I’m terribly under-qualified, or 2) afraid I will get, and at which I’ll fail miserably, because I’m totally not qualified.
Nothing happens if nothing happens. I can never attain what I aim for if I never apply, if I never open the story file or write the query or send out my resume. Fearless writing means remembering that I might look down on my accomplishments (or lack thereof, if self-doubt takes over), while another person might very well see them as qualifications. Taking action, in whatever way leads me toward that thing I most want, is one way to push aside my fears. At least for the moment. And, if, in the end, nothing comes of my actions, at least I’ve had the practice of refining a story, of forming a professional email, of gathering a list of what I’ve done in the last year. Of recognizing forward progress.
What will you do as a Fearless Writer this year?