The theme this week? Advice to your adolescent self…An interesting concept. And I think most adolescent selves would agree, totally unwarranted and unwelcome. After all, what teenager wants advice from a grown-up?
So instead of an overwrought, bloated dissertation dispensing unsolicited advice on what I, the teenager, should do, I’ll just say this: never stop taking chances. And I’m glad I’ve taken my own advice to heart, as you will see…
A few weeks back on vacation in Hawaii, we went on a trek into the rain forests of Kauai to glide across the jungle on ziplines.
Now, I have a dreadful fear of heights. I cannot look down from my bedroom window on the second floor of my own house without my stomach lurching. So the idea of riding a zipline some 60 feet up—skirting the tree canopy and exposed to the elements—was so far out of my comfort zone, it had almost made a 360°-revolution right back into my comfort zone.
However, greater than my fear of heights is my determination to never become too much of an old fart. I’m a big believer in challenging yourself, regardless of your age or ability. Thus despite my embarrassing height-induced weeny factor, I agreed to ride the ziplines.
Not only did I agree to risk life and limb doing the ziplines, but I planted myself at the front of the line, refusing to allow my trepidation a chance to take root as the group zipped, one by one, across the rain forest, tethered to only a narrow cable of steel.
Okay, yes, that first time out, I screamed. Realllllly loudly. Our guides encouraged all sorts of vocalizing, and were duly impressed with my screaming prowess. But I went back for seconds. With more screams. And thirds. And more screams. And fourths. And still more screams.
At one point I stood on a narrow wooden plank barely wider than hip-distance apart, poised backward, a chasm some 50-feet below me with trees and vines and roots and lava rocks and probably a few wild bores all waiting to swallow me up into their midst. It’s hostile territory: a place not particularly welcoming to namby-pampy tourists who aren’t willing to take a risk.
And because I didn’t want to be a namby-pamby tourist (whatever that means), I took the plunge. Without seeing behind me, I leaned back, trusting that I was secure on the zipline, and took the fall, however it was going to happen.
With my book about to make its debut in the public arena, I feel as if I’m on another type of zipline right now. Teetering on the precipice, a huge element of fear factor looming in my gray matter. I did the easy part—writing the book. But now comes the hard part—selling the thing. And swallowing rejections, which are bound to happen, and the fear of disappointing people whose opinions I respect.
The mere act of taking all these ruminations and imaginings to paper (or computer), all the while knowing some day people might actually be privy to it, is a risk. But it’s a calculated risk, and at this point, I can only hope that most people will find my sense of humor equally humorous (my kids say I love my own jokes the most; I hope there are others who get a laugh or two along the way). Those who find my writer’s voice enjoyable. And those who “get” me, or my writing or whatever it is that needs to be “gotten” as I venture into the world of the published, a world overwrought with tens of thousands of other authors launching books annually. A world glutted to the gills with fine fiction, compelling non-fiction, and certainly lots of schlock masquerading as literature of some sort. And into this jungle I am about to take a blind leap, hoping to God I don’t get sucked up by the Earth, never to be seen again. Literally or figuratively, swallowed up into the potentially unforgiving world of literature.
After several hours of repeatedly challenging my fears that afternoon, we finished the afternoon jumping from a rope swing two stories down into an icy lagoon. Our guides forewarned us that once we climbed the make-shift ladder up to the gnarled, ancient banyan tree from which the swing was attached, there was no turning back. The only way down was to grab that rope, hold on for dear life, and let go when the time was right.
With my book on the verge of taking that step into the world, I again feel the same emotions I felt as I stood there, gripping that rope as if it were attached to me. Ready to take the plunge, knowing that however it ends, it will be exhilarating, scary, exciting.
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? In the case of that rope swing some painful bruises (my husband can attest to that, having landed with a loud smack on his back). And in the case of my book, well, bruised egos can heal, and with a little luck I will make a splash—albeit a safe one, and return to swing another day.
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Many thanks to Deb Gail who graciously lent me her Monday slot on The Debutante Ball, since SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is debuting this week, so that we could dedicate Tuesday, my usual day, to help out Patry Francis, a talented writer and lovely woman whose novel Liar’s Diary will be released tomorrow. Patry was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and must devote herself to healing right now, thus can’t expend the enormous energy required to try to sell her novel. In her stead, hundreds of authors around the country are doing it for her, so please pass along the karma and do check out her novel. Thanks!