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?