FIRST FLOATING LESSONS || How Not to Sink on the River of Life

McKenzie River_optHere’s what my friend, S, said: “It’s like you wade into the river, and then suddenly you’re in the current, and then you can’t just step out again. You’re IN. No going back.”

The other day, Tuesday to be exact, I drove four hours up I-5 from southern Oregon to Portland. I cried off and on the whole way. I’d attended a beautiful wedding and hung with friends I don’t see often. I’d inhaled clean air tinged with the dried-grass scent of my California homeland, a scent that always makes my soul sigh. I’d spent two days on my own in a cute B&B, in a cute historic town, writing and catching up on sleep. I should have been content…

Instead, I cried. Not the sweet tears of release. This was an inner crumpling. When I checked myself in the rearview mirror, my face sagged in places I didn’t know were possible.

I called S. I didn’t care that I was driving illegally, sans Bluetooth, at 80 m.p.h. while holding my cell phone with one hand. S is a wise person, and her analogy about the river was spot-on. I realized that in a commitment-phobic life, I’d committed to my dream – and I was scared shitless. (Are we allowed to swear on this blog? Hmm…I’d better check the debutante rule book.)

This is the River of Life, and it’s a fact of life that sometimes — if we’re doing it right — it’s scary. For me, this river is floating me toward a more public life than I’m comfortable with, toward the word “author” with its responsibilities. Writing more books after KILMOON. Reaching out to readers. Always, forevermore, keeping up on social media and being “visible.” For the first time in my life I am putting myself irrevocably out there in a way that’s going to make my life more complex. So, yeah, I’m scared shitless, and I will swear about it. (I do have a potty mouth, just sayin’.)

River guides say that if you fall out of your raft, you’re supposed to lie on your back with feet downriver. Don’t struggle. Let the river take you until helping hands pull you back onto the raft.

After my talk with S, I realized that I have plenty of helping hands in my life. All I need to do is reach out when I fall off the raft.

Friday ChatathonTell me, how do you stay afloat when you’re scared or overwhelmed or just plain annoyed? Do you have issues with our increasingly public lives?


Author: Lisa Alber

Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at

21 Replies to “FIRST FLOATING LESSONS || How Not to Sink on the River of Life”

  1. Lean back and go with the flow… It sounds easy enough, but still I find myself flailing about, expending precious energy in an effort to control the current.

  2. Wonderful analogy on life. We either float the river, or are forever standing on the bank watching others float by. So glad you took the leap off the bank, as I can’t wait to read Kilmoon and the other books I know will follow. Cry a river, get wet, get lost in the current, but keep floating lady.

  3. Lisa,
    You are such a gifted writer, and even something as simple as a heart/soul-baring blog post, when you write it, tears at our core. This was a beautiful post, and I love that you are being so vulnerable. The one thing I know about writers and artists is that we have an abiding love and support for our fellow artists, and we always have support if we are willing to reach out. We are on the verge of greatness, you and I, and though it is scary, we must have the courage to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight, so we can commune with our audience. The key is every person sitting in that audience desperately wants a personal connection with you, and that is a HUGE gift you give people when you are open to spending some time interacting with them and weaving through the crowds which will surely move forward to embrace you and your gifts. Sharing your gift of writing with us is like giving us a piece of your soul, and so in that way it can be scary and intimidating and vulnerable. I love you! I know you are courageous, as I have told you time and again. I understand that we write in a solitary universe and when we must step out of the quiet, very personal space, we have to take a deep breath and move forward boldly. You will be greeted by your audience with warm, open, loving arms. I believe that with all my heart. xoxox

    1. S! And now your identity is out! 🙂 You are so eloquent, and you always know just what to say. You are so sweet, thanks so much. You just brought tears to my eyes…Man, I’m such a crybaby. Can’t wait to see you next week at Bouchercon. You know I’ll be lovin’ your support. We’ll support each other — though we both know that you excel in the art of being a people-person. Still, you know I’m there for you too. Xoxoxo, Lisa

      1. Lisa!
        I didn’t identify myself, but you outed me! 🙂 Yes, Bouchercon is going to be a blast, but the biggest thing is you and I can spend some quality time together, catching up, laughing, crying, planning our next moves in the game of life. Big kisses! See you soon!! xoxox

  4. What a beautiful post, Lisa. S’s river metaphor really struck a chord in me. We might fear the rush of the current sometimes, but why turn back now when we’ve so badly been wanting to jump in?

    I’ve gotten very overwhelmed lately with the demands of being that visible, accessible author. What helps me is setting boundaries between my online life and my real life, and doing each at 100%, trying to be completely present, so that once I’m in it, I’m IN.

    1. Thanks, Natalia! What you say is so true: boundaries. I’m still learning the trick of shutting down the online stuff. We don’t always have to be accessible, answering emails, replying to comments, Twittering, and so on. No one’s going to get miffed if we don’t answer right away. (And if they do? Well…:-))

  5. You do have to reach out. But, you also must know how to stay afloat on your own, because sometimes your support people are busy paddling to keep their own heads above water, and they can’t help you in the future if they drown.

    I am your friendly neighbor cynic.


    1. Cynic! But you’re right. There’s reaching out, and then there’s being needy. My issue has always been that I try to be too self-sufficient. There are times I really should reach out. And reaching out does help. (Part of my self-sufficiency might be because I’m single — I don’t have a hubby at home I can bounce things off of … )

      1. I’m single too, Lisa. And I think that is part of the reason I’m self-sufficient as well. No one here to talk to (kids in college) and friends have other priorities and families of their own. I’ve gotten accustomed to relying on myself and find it hard to reach out sometimes.

  6. I am just one step ahead of you Lisa and I know what you fear! I love that you are so connected with a wonderful group of writers so that each step can be carved with caution for you. I feel like my debut novel has been a little like the first year of a marriage- you are happy, giddy, and exhausted from lack of sleep over passionate labor-intense promoting. Your fear then changes from OMG please do not let there be any typos!!!! …to OMG please let all the typos be fixed now… to OMG how do I get the word out about this book without a big publisher to distribute it every freaking place known to literate man? …and finally to, OMG what if I get a bad review on Amazon??? Well, so far I can at least say I am still waiting for the bad review and predetermining who I will call to alternate crying and cussing to. As for the typos- they are GONE! YAY! You probably won’t have any… thats’ one nice thing about having all your mentors and their divine wisdom. You learned beforehand that it takes a VILLAGE!! to edit a book’s semi-final copy. As for promoting- well, like a new marriage the honeymoon is over and I am stuck with the annoying snore of put-yourself-out-there-every-day-to-get-Benjamin-heard-of-so-it-can-be-sold-and-therefore- READ! I cannot wait to read Kilmoon. It will be such a treat because I love your writing!! :))

    1. Kathryn! Thanks for visiting me here! You’re doing such a great job with everything. At least, from my outside perspective, it seems pretty effortless. And to get on that Amazon page — yay!

      And, oh, I betcha someone, somewhere, will find the last few typos for me — and after I read the page proofs TWICE, not once, but twice! 🙂

  7. You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head with this one.

    Like you, I had great concerns about stepping out of my silence and into the public sphere. I’ll admit – it isn’t easy. I’m an introvert (a fact which surprises many people), and a former bullied child, and I have anxiety about public appearances. I’ve had to work hard to realize that attention isn’t always bad (but even then, it’s still often scary).

    I can tell you, however, that from this side of the looking-glass, the world is a lovely place. It isn’t always easy keeping up with social media, blogging, and the public persona, but it IS always worth it. 100%.

    Hang in there. You’ll hit your stride. And for every tear of fear and sorrow you may cry, you’ll have at least an equal number prompted by pure, unadulterated joy.

    1. Oh Susan, I’m so sorry to hear you were bullied as a child. That’s the worst — I know what negative attention can do, especially to we who are already introverts to begin with. You’re even more of an inspiration to me now.

      Truth is, the supportive comments here today fill me with pure, unadulterated joy! 🙂

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