I have been thinking about this post for a couple of days–not about Steve Jobs–but about writing. I’m in the middle of writing a book that has turned out to be a lot harder than I envisioned. The thing is, I decided I wanted to do something different. I have written so many historicals now that I felt I was in danger of them beginning to sound the same, at least to me. I didn’t want that to happen. So I decided to step outside of the box and write about forbidden love. That may not be new to you as a reader, but it was new to me as a writer.
So I got two-thirds through this book, and the emotions I was writing got really hard, and the self-doubt started to creep in. Earlier this week, I was starting to fret. What if it is too outside the box? Will readers turn against me? What if it’s so vanilla that it looks like a failed attempt? Will readers turn against me? What if this book is the one where I prove to myself that I am not a very good writer? Will I turn against myself?
Angst is part and parcel of the game we writers play with ourselves with each book. Self doubt always creeps in. Some doubts are more detrimental than other doubts. Some doubts border on ridiculous. I mean, when you’ve written almost thirty books, to wonder if you are going to make it as a novelist is a little absurd, but yet I still do it.
But then Steve Jobs died. I was saddened like the rest of the world that we lost a genuis, a young man in the greater scheme of things with visions of a better future. I am a big fan of Apple products, but I had never read or heard anything that Steve Jobs said, other than “we call it the iPad.” And then I heard the commencement speech he gave, where he talked about taking chances, of not fearing failure, and this:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
I am already naked. I have no reason not to step out and try something new. In addition to this book, I have wanted to try some different writing for a while now, not romance, but something entirely different. I haven’t because I worry about things like failure. I haven’t tackled a romance like the one I am writing for the same reason. It’s not the tried and truth path to a bestseller. But why not try? Why not take the risk? Who is it that I fear will not validate me? You? My agent? My editor? Does it matter in the end? Will I be thinking of a review on my deathbed, or that maybe readers didn’t like this book as well as number 8 or 9 o 25? I don’t think so. What matters in the end is that I tried.
So I am already naked. I am going to give these desires to be new and different and challenging my best shot and let the chips fall where they may. (Speaking of best shots, while you are reading this, I will be running 12 miles. Yes, you read that right — 12 miles! That was something I never thought I could do, but I had nothing to lose by trying.) (Okay, I haven’t actually done it yet, but the point still works ). So I will catch up with you mid-day.
In the meantime, where has self-doubt slowed you down? What would you like to try but haven’t for fear of failure? Are you inspired to try something new or different or challenging? And don’t forget — commenters are all in the running to win a box of goddess books in this, the next to the last day of our Booktoberfest!