Saturday, August 23, 2008

Risk Avoidance

I've always been a cautious person. I don't think I willingly went in the deep end of the pool until I was ten; I could swim well, but figured, why risk it?

In school I constantly played to my strengths. Rather than pursue Philosophy, I stuck with English--I knew I could sail through in three years, and keep a scholarship.

While I was visiting my family I found some old medals from the state Academic Decathalon I competed in during high school. (Yes, it's true. I designed our team sweatshirts--they read, "Don't Mess With These Nerds.") Hot Stuff was asking me about it, and truth is, I don't remember how many events I placed in. Four, maybe five? First place in at least two. But the sad thing is, I didn't study, at all, for any of it. And now that I look back on it, I wonder how well I could have done had I actually, say, applied myself for once.

Part of this not-trying trend (which I used in the standardized college entrance exams, papers during college, and all of high school) stems from pure and simple laziness. But a large part of it, I think, was due to insecurity. Not trying was my safety net. Because what if I really worked hard, put all of my heart and soul into it, and then failed? What excuse would I have then? If I didn't try and still did well, great. If I didn't try and didn't do well, hey, I could blame not preparing. It was never about whether or not I was good enough.

But this writing thing is new, it's different. I want this. And I've put my heart and soul into Flash. I didn't just write a chapter here and there, when the mood struck. I devoted every spare thought, moment, and ounce of energy (and hey, with two kids under four, that's a HUGE sacrifice, because there isn't much of anything left over) to this manuscript. And when I was done, I didn't just pat myself on the back, I took advice, thought about it, made some changes. I'm on my fourth edit--going over every sentence to make sure nothing is awkward or out of place.

Here comes the risk. Not only did I actually try, very very much so, with this book, but now I'm putting it out there for the world to judge. It isn't enough that my friends, family, and writing group think it's great. I want to see it published.

And this is what scares me. What if, after finally devoting myself, and putting in the time and effort, nothing happens? What if I can't get an agent to notice me? What if I've finally found something I want, really want (besides Hot Stuff, and I got him ; )), and I can't get it? How do you recover from that?

I don't know how to end this post. I tried for a plucky, "I'll carry on no matter what!" ending, tried for a, "I want to write for the rest of my life whether or not I get paid," tried for a, "if I don't succeed with this, I honestly don't know what I'll do," but nothing quite worked. So, I guess I'll end with hoping that my best is enough in this case. Time will tell.

(Dang, this wasn't funny at all. Quick! Knock knock jokes in the comments section!)


Renee Collins said...

I was going to write something along the lines of, "don't give up, I know you'll do it!" But, I think you already know that I feel that way.

Instead, I'll say that I feel ya, sister. I too believe that I have found my thing, my calling in writing. I'm glad to have friends going through the same struggles as me. We'll all help each other through.

Oh, and . . . knock, knock . . .

Sarah Laurenson said...

Huh. Are you channeling me? That insecurity can be killer with our babies. I'm proud of you for putting your baby out there to see what happens.

Um, knock knock jokes? Do I know any clean but not corny ones? Um.

Knock Knock Jokes

Natalie said...

Again, another "I feel ya sister."

So, here's the other end of the stick (since I've seen two of my babies "fail" so to speak). It sucks, it really does when you realize that your book that you put so much time into isn't going to see a hardback cover...ever.

But then after the depression and the serious beating to your confidence, you realize you learned a heck of a lot from that experience. And with that experience, you write another book and it's better than the first.

And so it goes, my friend. It's bad, but not forever.

Megan said...

I don't really know what to say, considering I'm not in the same position, never have been, and most probably will never quite get there. I enjoy writing, but have never felt confident enough in it to pursue it in any serious degree. But you know, you have so many of us out there rooting for you, especially with this book, it's bound to count for something, right? I've found that in life, timing is everything! Love ya!:)

freddie said...

Hang in there, Kiersten. Things get better when you least expect it. I say this from personal experience. Keep your chin up!

Kiersten said...

Megan! Hi, Doll! And thanks ; )

Renee, Sarah, and Natalie, I'm sure I've expressed what a lot of us feel...and yeah, I've been through it with Tut--the realization that it's not going anywhere. But thing is, Tut wasn't really my baby. And I am so much more hopeful for Flash--I can absolutely see it getting published and doing well. There's no reason it shouldn't--other than the random luck of querying. That's what's frustrating, is that, at this point, I feel like everything hinges on hitting the right person at the right time--which I can't control.

So...I should probably just quit worrying about it, and start biting my nails, anxiously waiting to hear back from the awesome agent who requested a partial...

Whirlochre said...

Hmm. You've raised a number of interesting points here.

It's quite obvious you're not short of brain cells, so your laziness might have been honed partly by accident. I see this in my own offspring. Academically, his school has thrown nothing at him to challenge him seriously, so he's never really needed to graft and grapple and grunt over anything. Likely, when it does, it will come as a shock, but for now he's getting 100% results from precious little input and this is how he thinks it is. I can't envisage you being lazy in the slobby sense — it's a sailing thing, isn't it? And a big rock.

As for the danger of wanting something, you simply have to play to your strengths or you'll end up wasting your life climbing someone elses mountain. I know. I've done it. What you have in your favour is that you've taken the plunge early. There is no guarantee you'll succeed, but, equally, nothing to gain from never having thrown your hat into the ring. I'm in danger of mixing my metaphors here, but if it's any help, I think you have a lot of odds stacked in your favour. As for the querying thing, it's very hard to sit for weeks on end with nothing to go on but nothing at all, especially when, in your writing fervour, you lived and breathed your latest creation with fullness of zest. A couple of months ago I had to wait longer than I would have liked for a decision of some import and I have to say, a silent phone produces a shriller sound than any number of Bee Gees ring tones. Vacuums are wretched things and the temptation is to bite your nails and allow your brain to feast on fictions and phantoms that cannot possibly help you. Resist the lure of their barren suction.

If I have my timing right, the finished version of Flash is barely six weeks old — a very short space of time in Agent Years. So as you wait (as you must) for word of your partial (hurrah!), keep tabs on the things you can control. You can't make the phone ring, you can't write the agent's email, you can't do that Superman thing where you spin the world round with a flick of your cape so time speeds up. Save your precious speculation for events you can wholly manipulate — your living, breathing fiction. And do some decent hanging out with Hot Stuff and the kids, because if you're right and you end up being published, every part of the next stage process from revisions onwards will soak up your time like a...I dunno, a Time Soaking Sponge Beast.

Hope this makes some sort of sense.

sylvia said...

Aw! *hugs*


Who's there?

Renee Collins said...

You got another partial request?! That's fantastic! Congrats.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Kiersten said...

Wow, Whirl, that actually made complete and total sense.

You clearly need to get more sleep.

But seriously, spot on, and thanks. I need to just chill out; I'm not very good at that. I think I'll start a new, non-Flash project. Gotta write my short story, and then I'll work on something else.

I'm sure your son will get challenged one of these days--and I've found the things that challenged me the most were the ones I ended up loving. Except math. Math is the bane of my existence. But it is a problem when you're used to coasting and faced with something you actually have to work at.

Anyway, now I'm rambling. Thanks; very insightful. I'm surprised and not at all, at the same time.

And thanks, Renee and Sylvia!

Natalie said...

Thanks Whirl. Not my post, but Kiersten's situation applies to me too (if you didn't know, we're twins). So I'm taking your sage advice.

Better start up some meditation or something. Yoga sounds good right now.

Julie Weathers said...

Miss K.

I understand how you're feeling. I've had the same qualms about Paladin and frankly I am concerned about the plot line. I think I will work the kinks out, but who knows.

Regardless, five years is a long time to think about a project. I've probably only worked on it for a year, but it's still five years down the tubes.

What if it doesn't sell? What if I can't even get an agent? What if...

You busted butt to get this thing done. Take some time to decompress and relax. At the end of the day all you can do is know you did the best you could and put it in God's hands.

For me, if Paladin doesn't sell, I go to work on Dragon Valley. I know in my heart I was born to be a writer. That means I have no choice but to write.

So it is with you, girl. God does not give us talents just to mock us.


Kiersten said...

Thanks, Julie ; ) You're a sweetheart.

writtenwyrdd said...

Just finishing a novel is something 99% of folks who start writing do not do. So kudos for that much. And you made some amazing points about the way slipping through life can happen. Since you're actually applying yourself, I'd wager odds of getting published are very high. :)

Anxiety is not a useful emotion, is it?

Spinch said...

It may be cliche, but I have to say it... nothing ventured... nothing gained.

You've ventured, and that's a helluvalot more than the majority of people out there have done (myself included).

On another note, I don't think ANYONE on that AcaDec team did much studying. I don't know about the room that you guys were staying in, but all the guys did before the competition? Play "WWF: No Mercy" with charachters made to look like ourselves on the Nintendo 64 that I brought with me.

...I just realized that I may have been partially responsible for the team doing worse. Crap.

Kiersten said...

Thanks, Spinch.

And lol. I think all we did in the girls' room was talk about boys. Especially those Brighton boys, they were cute.

Yeah, that whole team was kind of a joke. But didn't everyone place in at least one or two things? Just think if we'd actually done anything. We could have been even bigger nerds!

Kristan said...

No, it wasn't funny at all, but it was real. Genuine. And it really resonated with me.

{big sigh}

You made it. So can I.