As I sit here, my finished novel is staring at me within arm's length. Yes, it needs some minor editing and one chapter to be re-done. It is most likely the most powerful piece I have ever written. It has the potential to change perceptions and lives of those living with autism. But, I am paralyzed to do what should be done next; make the finishing touches and submit it to publishers.
It isn't like I have been preoccupied with new projects. I have no new plots or characters haunting me, calling to bring them to life. My tank is running on fumes of emotions or revelations to be expressed in poetic form. I had blamed my muse for deserting me or at least taking a vacation. But, I realize now the problem lies within me. I am afraid.
I have been going through the motions of moving forward with my novel. Because one of the main characters has Asperger's, I asked an expert in the field to read it for authenticity. Her response was enthusiastic and encouraging. During a presentation to school administrators, she even called it a terrific reference and tool for helping students. Even that failed to motivate me.
I went to our local library and checked out the latest version of "Writer's Market" to search for publishers. I haven't opened it to page one.
What is the problem? Why can't I seem to do these simple tasks to ready my work? I'm certainly capable of doing the editing, I know what and how to polish the story. Finding names and addresses of potential publishers is boring and time consuming, but an easy task. Again, I ask myself; what is the problem? The answer is fear.
It came to me as if I was following links in a chain. Each one binding my hands as if they were tied behind my back. I needed to name each fear to lessen it's power. So, I played one of my favorite games; what's the worst that can happen? I may be a little perverse, but aren't we all?
The first fear is of course a common one, fear of rejection. All of us have experienced that sinking feeling when we receive that telltale skinny letter from a publisher. "While we appreciate you submission, it doesn't presently fit with our..." blah, blah, blah.
Then I realized this was but one unanimous person's opinion. Even if I get ten skinny letters a week, there are thousands of publishers out there. When did I ever let one person's beliefs change my mind? I have always been bull-headed enough to go in the opposite direction. Just ask my family.
Next, came the most difficult one to beat into surrender; the fear of not being good enough. What if everyone was just being kind and condescending? Maybe my writing was OK for an amateur, but would it hold up to a higher standard? Was I just fooling myself? Wouldn't it be easier to just forget all this writing "nonsense" and get on with my daily life? Should I just count my blessings? I have a job I enjoy, working with autistic children, I have a loving family and friends. Shouldn't that be enough? Or was this only my fears making excuses?
The answer is yes. I had allowed my feelings of inadequacies to surface and take over. All my life I have let people underestimate me. When they didn't think I had what it takes to make it through college, I went on to receive my Masters' in Educational Leadership. After my divorce, many thought I would never make it on my own. I now own my own house, have retired after thirty years of teaching, and guest teach when I choose. Why then have I let all these old and rotting doubts consume me?
Then it hit me. I needed to use the fear of doing nothing to move me to take action . How would I feel about myself if I left my book where it was, unedited? What would I accomplish if I returned the publishers guide back to the library, unread. I needed to be afraid of accepting failure without even trying for success. What I have to fear is allowing myself to put the manuscript on a shelf and let it collect dust. I know now that I can not and will not let that happen.
There are no quick or easy solutions. It is a daily battle of faith and stubbornness. But, it is said that admitting you have a problem is the first step to conquering it. I think addicts and writers have a lot in common. I see now that I have to simply lean over. pick up my manuscript, and begin the editing. It is well within my reach, physically and mentally. Will I be able to take that baby step soon? I believe so. I'll let you know who wins the battle.