I recently came across an entry on style and body image blog Already Pretty that resonated with me. Entitled “What Could You Accomplish?”, the post discusses a conversation the author had with a female friend, who said that she would never run for office because of the scrutiny and criticism she would receive for her appearance. Apparently, the friend had worked in politics for years, loved public speaking, and was passionate about her beliefs.
But she still hesitated to put herself ‘out there’ in public, in case she was dismissed for not being [attractive/stylish/fill in the blank] enough to be a politician.
The author went on to mention a talented musician friend who keeps her music in the background for similar reasons, and I was reminded of the fears I have about putting myself ‘out there’ as an author – particularly of romance novels. Although the author of the Already Pretty post discusses fear of judgment in the context of body image, I, like many authors, sometimes find myself thinking similar thoughts about my writing.
I wonder if I’m fooling myself, if my writing is any good, if anyone could possibly be interested in what I have to say. If the people who know me in my ‘real life’ – my family and friends, my coworkers and colleagues – will think less of me for following this dream. (After all, in many people’s minds, my dream is associated with an image of Fabio standing against a dramatic, full-color backdrop, hair flowing in the wind).
That image is a good reminder not to take myself too seriously, but when I have doubts, I also tell myself that my goals and dreams are not made ridiculous by their packaging. It helps to think about what might have happened if all the other writers I love had been too afraid to declare publicly that yes, they are authors – and no, they’re not ashamed.
What if Stephen King, for example, hadn’t listened to his wife’s encouragement when she famously fished the first draft of Carrie out of the trash bin? Or what if Nora Roberts had given up after her first rejection?
As Terry Pratchett says in his book Moving Pictures:
“You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?…It’s all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they’re really good at…It’s all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when it’s even possible to find out. It’s all the people who never get to know what it is that they can really be. It’s all the wasted chances.”
I’m determined not to waste mine.