Sometimes I wonder about how my brain works. (No comments from the peanut gallery.) Really, I wonder about how everyone’s brain works. It’s why I went into psychology in college. It’s why my day job is piecing together reasons for why kids act the way they do, and coming up with solutions to help their brains process in more healthy ways. It’s why I write stories that explore deep within the human psyche, digging through all the best and worst traits of humanity to create balanced, believable characters.
But still, I baffle myself sometimes.
For my day job, I often face down belligerent children. I have scolded known abusers. When I did home-based work with teens in the juvenile justice system, I drove through rough areas after dark to talk with families with known gang affiliations. I have stood between chain smoking/drinking parents and their screaming children, been called any variety of vulgar names, and had to request assistance for a child destroying my office.
In writing world, I have written five books. I spent two years sending queries and receiving rejections. Two years pushing through, stubbornly refusing to quit, launching my words into play again and again. I got an agent and a book deal. I get to call myself an author.
In January, I started attending a new church, which I have mentioned here before, I think. (I’m too lazy to go back and look.) A few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and try to connect instead of slipping in and out practically unnoticed, which I did for three years at my previous church before finally getting involved. So, with shaking hands, I filled out a card and dropped it in the offering plate. Friends, that act was more difficult than knocking on any of the doors in the scariest parts of the city.
Last week, I auditioned for the worship band. I hadn’t sung in front of anyone but family for almost two years, since my last church closed. Not gonna lie, I was physically ill beforehand. I had to run a meeting early in the afternoon, and then sit through another one until 4. I thought I might throw up. Why? Because of the what ifs. What if I was actually terrible? What if my friends and family were like the ones from American Idol, who have told their loved one how great they are for years to avoid hurt feelings, but were actually lying through their teeth? What if I forgot the harmony? What if I tripped and fell? What if I babbled incoherently? What if I just completely screwed it up?
But I didn’t. I auditioned and it went well and it was so much fun to sing with a real person instead of a recording. The worship leader was super nice and didn’t even give me strange looks when I babbled a little. It was good. It was worth it. And it was the scariest thing I’ve done in many years. More scary than any of the therapy or writing stuff.
I don’t know why some things scare us more than others. (Well, I have a bit of an idea about my church anxiety, but that’s an entirely different and impressively long story.) But what I do know is that every time I’ve done something that I was terrified to do, the results have been more than worth it.
Doing home-based work, working with difficult children in unstructured situations? That helped me hone my skills, mature in my profession, learn to think on my feet, which is a skill that is helpful in areas other than just therapy.
Being rejected for two years and pushing through anyway? Taught me that perseverance pays off, and that just because I don’t succeed right away doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. It just means I need to work harder or come at things from a different angle.
This church stuff…I have a feeling it’s going to teach me a lot. Still in the beginning stages here, but getting reconnected after two years without a church home is exciting and scary and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
So, in conclusion (breaking it down research paper style), DO WHAT SCARES YOU. Take that step!
Send that query letter to agents.
Write that synopsis.
Let a CP or beta reader look at your work.
Write that first sentence.
Let that brilliant idea run away with you.
Ask that question that’s been burning in your heart.
Talk to that person who intimidates you.
Dream those *unattainable* dreams.
If it’s scary, but also exciting, it will be worth it. Trust me. You can do it. I believe it you.