In January I made the usual New Year’s resolutions: eat healthier, exercise more, etc. But I also made a resolution I had never made before. Fight fear.
Fear has held me back my entire life. I’m a timid person by nature, though I’ve overcome much of that through the love of my family. Yet still, I have more than my share of phobias. Spiders, stage fright, dentists (that’s a big one).
I haven’t overcome these phobias, but I have forced myself to face them. Just last week I smashed a spider that had my daughter cornered. In a gesture at fighting off my general timidity, I recently took the opportunity to travel with my son to Germany. And I tried out for and got a bit part in our local theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol”. So, yeah, I’m working on it.
And this morning, I went to the dentist for the first time in…a while. My teeth are still sore. Like everything, I began to draw a parallel between sore teeth and publishing a book.
When you write a novel, you bare a part of your soul, and the more covering you can pull away (just like the dental hygienist did to my teeth this morning), the better your writing will be. And just like my teeth, which are now sore and more exposed to temperature changes, so the writer’s soul becomes exposed to critics.
The temptation is to keep part of the soul covered. A thin veil. Remove yourself from the story and tell yourself it’s the characters’ story you’re telling. And while this is true to a point, the truth is, the writer is in every story she tells. And once that story is published, the writer is exposed. Perhaps this is why Emily Dickinson published less than a dozen poems in her lifetime. So much of her soul exposed through her poems might have been too much for her to bear.
So publishing is a leap of faith in our own work and our own souls. It might be ignored or disliked or even loved, but it’s bound to be painful in one way or another. With that thought in mind, I present a taste of my soul in the form of an excerpt from Movie Magic:
“What’ll it be, Cowboy?” Her eyes flickered over him in a just slightly less than shameless fashion.
“What would you recommend, Gypsy?”
The woman looked pleased that he remembered her name. “Depends. Are you just here to drink tonight, Walt, or are you eating?”
“You know I’m not going to pass up the burgers.” He leaned on the bar. “We want beer. Maybe one of those pepper beers you guys are so proud of.”
The woman raised her eyebrows and looked at Sabrina. She nodded, her appraisal obviously satisfactory. “Two ghost brews coming up.” She reached beneath the counter and with a flick of her wrist produced two bottles with a label bearing a picture of an ethereal white spirit sporting a pirate hat. She stopped short of handing it to them. “They’re on the house if you do that trick again.”
“Which trick?” Walt raised his eyebrows, trying to look innocent.
“You know which trick.” She uncapped the beer and set it in front of him.
He glanced at the beer, then back to her. “You got a glass?”
“Better than that. I’ve got a bottle of cheap beer back here. You don’t even have to waste yours.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” He looked anxious.
Sabrina laughed and Gypsy grinned at her. “I like this one. She’s got faith.”
“I kind of like her too.” Walt’s sideways grin warmed Sabrina and she couldn’t help smiling back. Walt tapped the bar. “Bring it on, Gypsy. I’m up to any challenge tonight.”
Gypsy let out a whoop that attracted the attention of everyone in the bar area. By the time she’d set the bottle of beer and a glass in front of Walt, the other patrons were crowding around. Sabrina enjoyed her front row seat as she watched Walt pick up the bottle, unscrew the top and take a swig. Then he upended the bottle on the bar with a flourish, somehow not spilling a drop. The crowd oohed appreciatively, then waited as Walt placed a coaster on the bottom of the upended bottle, flipped it back over the right way, then upended it again over the glass. When nothing happened, he pretended to be confused, peered inside for a second while Sabrina and probably the rest of the crowd held their breath, then held it over the glass again, removed the coaster and tapped the bottom of the bottle, producing a gush of beer into the mug. Walt handed the mug to Gypsy with a bow while everyone applauded.