One of my favorite quotes is that one about doing something every day that scares the beejeebus out of you.
I know that’s not the exact wording, and I’m sure there’s another quote that speaks to my being too lazy to look it up. In my defense, I did, once, and found something about it being falsely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. Ever since, I figure it’s fair to just express the sentiment in whatever way I want. And you can attribute it to Eleanor if you choose. Or me. Or Captain Kangaroo.
I don’t think either Eleanor or the Captain probably used the word beejeebus nearly enough for my taste, though.
Well, guess what? I’ve landed on something I get to do every day for the foreseeable future that accomplishes that, and I don’t have to think about spelunking or jumping out of a plane to keep the fear queue full.
I’ll get to the actual thing in a sec, but first I want to share my favorite mechanism to cope with the biggest fears I have that don’t incorporate staring out a Cessna door at 12,000 feet.
I started running (again) in 2010, and got on the half marathon bandwagon in 2011. This was after a running hiatus of about 25 years.
Back then I only ran because I was shamed into joining the cross country team when my dad called my bluff. I hated everything about running. I sweat a lot, I was slow, and stuff jiggled that wasn’t supposed to jiggle. I was unlike other runners on my team. I was lumbering and clumsy. I was squishier and cared too much about how much my hair looked.
Fast forward to today: stuff still jiggles, I still sweat a lot, and I haven’t gotten miraculously faster during my hiatus.
But running’s easier now, with more payoff. These days we can compete via Fitbit step counts, where no one cares what your hair looks like. There are tchotchkes at events: t-shirts and medals and sometimes beer. And you get your exercise in without having to elbow your way into a gym.
Hell, that’s like a trifecta for me. I’d pick up bass fishing for that.
Wait, now, I kid. I mean, bass fishing? No.
Anyway, I suck just as much at running as I always have, but I enter a lot of running events. So I end up sucking at running publicly. Sometimes these events are big enough I can get lost in a crowd. Sometimes there are few enough people, I can’t hide. I might very well finish close to last, with sunscreen in my eyes, having peed down my leg.
TMI, I know, but it happens.
Just last month I ran one of those small events where (at least at my age), one can come in almost last and still place in my age category. Which I did.
The last mile or so was along a busy, rural highway. I was the only runner in sight. And there were pickups and cattle trucks backed up the entire way for road construction. And here I was running by all of them.
In the rain.
Wearing a tutu.
I’ve learned that in such situations, it’s best to have a good parade wave. Which I do. And, although this was my first tutu run, I have been known to wear a tiara.
… Because nobody laughs at the girl with the tiara. They laugh with her. They applaud her not giving a shit what anyone thinks. I don’t care how poorly you run, you put bling on your head, folks are high five-ing you any chance they get. They might not even notice the sweat, or how much you smell like pee.
It feels good getting past that self-image of the slow, pudgy girl in the front of the cross country bus who really has no business in the company of the lithe, carefree crew toward the back.
The tiara’s the thing. And the parade wave. If you’re going to look ridiculous anyway, own it. Play it up. This approach gets me through a lot of stuff that used to scare me.
Being ridiculous is endearing. Personable. Relatable. Everybody’s a goof, and nobody cares more about your goofiness than their own.
So I tell jokes. Whether I’m speaking in public or blathering on this blog, humor is a coping mechanism that I wish pudgy, sixteen year-old me would have embraced. These days, I can easily put myself out there in a way that scares other people to death. I tell myself if I’m going to be ridiculous, I might as well be doing it on purpose.
And because I’m competitive about stupid stuff, I’m shooting for the best and the most ridiculous, not just fair to middlin’ silly.
But humor as a coping mechanism doesn’t work for everything.
I finished writing a book earlier this year. Or the most recent draft of a book. Turns out the writing of the thing was about twenty percent of the work. The rewriting has been a good chunk of the rest of the effort.
And then there’s selling it.
Last month I started pitching to agents. There have been three so far who found the concept interesting enough they asked for a sample.
And then they each took a pass.
This process has been excruciating, you guys. These people have been kind, but they’re not leading a writing workshop. They don’t have time to give a lot of feedback. If they offer up the reason they weren’t interested, it often raises more questions than it answers:
I loved the premise of this, however, I’m looking for a bit more crossover appeal in YA.
While I liked the concept and thought Elle had an intriguing journey ahead of her, the writing did not keep me as engaged as I had hoped.
I just didn’t connect with the voice in the way that I look for, which tells me that I’m not the best agent for this novel.
This kind of stuff is freaking me out enough to want to breathe into a bag. I worry no one will ever love my poor, little book like I do. I worry that the language I’ve used is overwrought. I worry that the characters aren’t relatable, that the story line’s confusing. I worry that it’s poorly written. That I’m way out of my league. That I’m too old to be writing YA. That I’m over thinking.
I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was turned down seventeen times before she found an agent. But just three rejections has me curled up in a fetal position, you guys. I don’t have any idea how Rowling made it through seventeen. Probably more. I mean Harry Potter wasn’t her first rodeo.
After one of my recent self esteem crises, Mike recommended a particular Ted Talk by researcher Brené Brown on vulnerability. I want to say that it helped, that I see the value in putting myself out there without the protection of my humor wall. That being authentic and whole hearted is more courageous than just being in-your-face about everything.
But to be honest, I’m not buying it. Even telling you all about this experience makes me cringe. Copying and pasting those agent responses into the body of this post makes me realize I care more than I want to about what some complete strangers think. I’m struggling to keep from retreating right now.
I’ll let you know what comes of this. Maybe. If I can put a funny spin on it. Meanwhile, I’m sure I’ll keep submitting the thing. After all, it’s my baby. I just need a couple weeks to give my psyche a rest.
…. while I work a little on my parade wave, and maybe find myself a bigger tiara.