Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do One Thing

Do one thing every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt

Remember this post? I talked about giving voice to your dreams and taking risks. Then on Sunday I talked about how I had to stop hiding behind someday and take a risk in writing my first novel. I thought that after all that risk-taking, that would be the end of it. I would waltz off into the sunset with my publishing contract in hand, a beatific smile on my face.

But I am learning that this life of taking risks is just beginning. That to pursue one's dream, one must keep pursuing it every day. There is not one final act in a pursuit. It's a chase that begins when you say yes and lasts as long as you keep running. I saw that in the faces of the writers I met at ACFW. They are all running the same race, still chasing the same dream. Whether they have written one novel or ten, the chase is still on.

I realized this a couple of weeks ago when I was in the car one morning, returning home from my daily carpool run to my sons' school. I flipped on the radio just in time to catch an interview with Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook, Message In A Bottle, Walk To Remember, Nights In Rodanthe and the new title, The Last Song. (I read it and highly recommend it. Go ahead and read it because it's going to be a movie with Miley Cyrus, releasing in January. That way you can be "in the know" when your kids want to see it.) Anyway, in the interview they announced that he would be at our local Barnes and Noble that night signing books.

I can't explain why but I knew in that instant what I needed to do. Everyone who has read my novel-- from agents, to a hired reader for an agent, to different people within the staff of the publisher, etc. has compared my novel to his work. Ironically, I haven't read a lot of his books and by no means set out to write a novel that compared to his work. But needless to say, when you hear that a certain amount of times from a lot of people who aren't connected to each other, you start believing it. So I knew that I needed to go and meet him that night. I called my husband and told him what I was thinking of doing.

"Is that crazy?" I asked. What I meant was, "Tell me not to do it."

"Probably. But you know you need to do it," he replied.

I called one of my best friends. "Tell me not to do it," I said.

"You have to do this!" she said.

So resolutely I printed out a nice copy of the synopsis and sample chapters of my book and, later that afternoon with butterflies swarming in my stomach, I went to the Barnes and Noble with my papers clutched in my sweaty palm.

There were hundreds of people there. As was expected, I bought my copy of the book and took my place in line. Two hours later I got close enough to see him sitting at the table. Other shoppers around me were giddy at the prospect of meeting him. I wanted to throw up. They were there to get their book signed and a photo made with him... fun! I was there to do something that felt stupid and scary. The closer I got to him, the more I wanted to flee. But my resolve kept me rooted in place. If you leave, I told myself, you will always wonder.

One of my biggest fears as I stood there was that he would very loudly say, "I am sorry but I do not do endorsements!" while the hundreds of people watched and pointed at me as I slunk off in shame. I also had another scenario where his handlers who stood by him at the table reached out and took my papers from me, stating loudly, "We're sorry ma'am, but Mr. Sparks can't take things from the public." As I stood there worried, I felt God whisper to me, "You will not suffer shame." And so as I stood there, I just repeated that promise to myself over and over and over. It reassured me and kept me inching towards him.

When I bought the book, I saw a magnet that said the quote at the top of this post. On impulse I bought it too. It summarized what I was feeling and doing. Though I thought I had bought the magnet for myself, as the time ticked away I realized that I needed to give it to him.

When I got up to the table where he held court, I seriously thought I might pass out. Somehow I took the seat next to him when it was my time, though I barely remember my feet carrying me there. "Did you want a photo?" he asked as he busied himself with signing my book. Warily I removed the pages from the bag.

I shook my head no. "What I'd really like is to give you something."

He looked worried. "Oh... okay," he said.

I slid the pages across the table to him and he looked down, puzzled. His face clouded over as what it was registered with him. "It's already under contract," I offered quickly. His face visibly relaxed as he realized I wasn't asking him to help me get published.

"I just want you to read it and, um, consider endorsing it if you, um, do that sort of thing." Real smooth. I slid the magnet across to him. "I also want to give you this." I waited for a moment while he read what it said. He looked up at me. "Just for the record," I said. "This is my something scary for today."

He smiled at me. "Now why would this be scary?" He smiled.

"Because I had no idea how you would respond."

"It's fine," he said. He held up the pages I had given him. "I will read it."

"So, you will think about it endorsing it?" I asked, a smile spreading across my face.

"Yes," he said. "I will."

I thanked him and made room for the next person in line. The whole exchange had taken mere minutes. I walked off thinking of all the things I should have said-- how I should have explained why I was asking him specifically-- but my time was up. As I walked away, I got stopped in a traffic jam of people milling around, watching him. I looked up and caught his eye. He winked and I smiled back, my heart filling with hope. At the very least, I thought, he didn't think of me as some sort of whack job. And I had not suffered shame.

That was nearly three weeks ago. I haven't heard a word since. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will... If he even made it home with what I gave him... If the magnet is affixed to his refrigerator... If he sees it and remembers me or if I am just yet another fan who wanted something in return.

It is at those moments that I refocus my attention on God-- on His plan for this book and the fact that nothing can thwart that. And so, instead of being anxious about it, I pray about it. And I move on with my day, knowing that no amount of worrying about what happens will change the outcome. The point was to do something that scared me, to take one more step towards my publishing dreams in a way that put me out of my comfort zone and more in touch with the risky life God is calling me to.

Do one thing every day that scares you... what will be your thing today?
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Bonita said...

You did what you were supposed to do and the outcome is up to God. With or without the endorsement, your book will surely be a hit and touch many, many lives. And one day you will be the one being fearfully approached for endorsement.

mary said...

God bless you!! I admire that you stepped out of your comfort zone! I can't wait to hear when you get the letter from Nicholas Sparks, that he has endorsed your book!!
Blessings & Peace Mary

Anonymous said...

You were incredibly brave!
I do hope that my "something scary" today is NOT that scary...Or at least I'll be half as brave as you were.

Josey Bozzo said...

What a wonderful story of courage. I wish I had it. Can I just tell you, that through lots of prayer and words of encouragement (from God especially), I have started a book. I have even given a small part to a trusted friend to read. She said it was good. Since then I have worked on it off and on, but something strange happens when I do. I start writing, the words keep flowing for awhile and I write and write and write. Then something happens and I stop. I'm not talking about writers block I'm talking about, I just stop doing it. I've thought and prayed about this and quite frankly, I think I afraid. I think I'm afraid to do it, because it might just work out. I know I need to get passed this and continue to pursue this dream, but this fear of success stops me every time.
Thank you for your post today. It was just what I needed.

Jill said...

What a great post! Marybeth your words make me think of my experience at She Speaks as I approached your table with thoughts about my book and even a year ago when I asked you to read it. And now as the official release date nears the words about never reaching that dream are so true - the race never ends. This life of faith is truly a journey - one that I find requires doing scary things more and more. Thanks for sharing and encouraging all of us to step out in faith as well. Praying for you as the race moves on, Jill

Julie said...

I LOVE that you did this, Marybeth! Regardless of whether anything becomes of it (at least from your viewpoint), know that I applaud and am inspired by your obedience.


Julie said...

How wonderful! God always gives you the strength to do what you do when you need it - no matter how hard your heart is pounding out of your chest. =) If your book is a comparison to his, I can't wait to read it!

I also want to say that I just received your book - Learning to Live Financially Free - and I can't wait to read it! It's been a hard journey in that area for my husband and I and after reading part of the first chapter online I can't wait to read the rest. Thank you for your faithful ministry to our Lord!


Karen Ehman said...

Best post you've ever written......

We love you!

tiggerdaisy said...

The message of this post is SPECTACULAR!

Amy O/picketfencemom said...

I love Nicholas Sparks' books, so if your writing style has been compared to his...that's a high compliment in my opinion. I can't wait until I can read YOUR book. Eleanor Roosevelt's quote has been one I've liked for a long time, and one that I was talking about to a friend just a couple of days ago. So it's funny that you used that one. I agree, and I'm so impressed that you approached Nicholas Sparks. Maybe he'll give you a great endorsement! We can all say we 'knew you when'! LOL
Yay for you!
Amy O.

Melanie said...

You make me want to be brave! Thanks for sharing this story. So interesting to think of what it could result in... and no matter what, it was the right thing to do! So excited about your novel!!! i'll be one of the firs to purchase it! mel

Karin Katherine said...

Wow. My stomach had butterflies just reading this post! I am so proud of you. Wow. That was amazing...I would like to be a writer but I fear just even trying to be one. I fear I'm not good enough. That I won't get past the first chapter. That everyone I know will laugh behind my back at how silly I am for thinking that I could a) write a book and b) get it published.

I don't even know where to begin in addressing my I'll just be glad that I put it out in the blogosphere for the world to see.


Holly said...

Loved this story! Good for you Marybeth. The quote is awesome too...

KelliGirl said...

I felt your butterflies. This post was so engaging I can't wait to read your book. Something tells me you WILL hear back from Mr. Sparks.

Oh Dear said...

So I could not read this post fast enough!!!! If the novel is like this post, I will have to pick a low responsibility weekend to EAT IT UP!

Oh so very cool!

Amy Jo said...

I am SO proud of you!!! Well done!!! (Even better, I know GOD is SO PROUD OF YOU!!!) :-) Thanks for sharing...and I can't wait to read your book'll have to share your dream cast with us if you book is made into a movie. A girl's gotta keep dreaming, right? Sweet blessings, Amy in OR

Melissa Milbourn said...

something about your description of standing in line reminded me of "The Christmas Story" and when Ralphie was standing in line to see Santa Claus. :-)

AND, I totally relate to your thoughts of "I should have said this or that.." I had those thoughts too after Ms. Mandrell called the other day.

But I'm convinced that God orchestrated your conversation (and mine).


DOakley said...

What a great post, Marybeth! I would have loved to have met him too!

I will be passing your post along to my other writing groups. We all have dreams like this and I know many are scared, too. You're putting your heart on your sleeve, your baby in someone else's hands.

(Psst. Don't be afraid of following up with him. That will help kill some of the suspense of waiting for a response.)

Shirley... said...

I thought taking my blog off of private was SCARY, but it is nothing when compared to how courageous you were!!

Looking forward to reading your book!!

Shirley... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JanetElaineSmith said...

What a wonderful post. As a fellow author, I've been accused of being a "brazen hussy" when it comes to marketing my books, but they don't see the inside of me shivering. I love the quote--and I hope you get that endorsement.
Janet Elaine Smith, author of best-selling Dunnottar

redsoxmom said...

Way to go Marybeth! Stepping out in faith to do what we are called allows us to be used by God; we may not see what His purpose is at the time, but it will be revealed in time. Your stepping out is so inspiring for others (including myself) to do the same. As for Nicolas Sparks, he really is a nice man. He lives in my parent's town and my mom has met him several times, gone to signings, and has friends who know him and his wife--all say he is wonderful. I'll venture to say he WILL read your book and get back to you. Since he has a new book (which my mom also got a signed copy for me for Christmas), he's probably just busy. I'm sure we'll be reading here on your blog one day about his response. :)


trinitybeacon said...

That was beautifly written, and an inspiring story. Keep taking those risks, it would be a shame to waste such a God given talent.


Terry Whalin said...


What a great story with a solid message. I loved it. Good work.

Terry Whalin
author of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams

Jay Hudson said...

I just discovered your blog when a mutual friend recommended it.Great job of perservering to attain your goal.
Jay Hudson

Jamie @ Six Bricks High said...


Fern said...

Your post reminds me of when I bravely wrote to Author Rudy Wiebe for an endorsement for my husband's autobiography. He read the book and wrote a great endorsement!

If you don't ask, you can't receive.

Julie M said...

I think about all the people who have been where you are, hopiing for a good outcome when they've taken a huge risk. How almost never do we hear about this side of it, but see the endorsements on the back of the book. I'm sending your story to all my writers. Without the Leap there is no faith needed. My daughter gave me a magnet about a year ago. All it says is "I am Brave." I look at it everytime I wonder if I should take a risk.
Then, I risk it all.
I hope you are outrageously successful!

DOakley said...

Julie, your comment reminded me of what Christopher Robin told Pooh Bear in "The Search for Christopher Robin"--You are braver than you belief, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

I used to have that on a sticky note on my computer screen. I think I'll have to put it back on.

There is so much negativity out there, that we have to have positive things in our face to remind us it's not as bad as we think.