Folks, I am terrified. My fear requires a teeny bit of back story, so bear with me.
Three days ago I had to fix something that I had overlooked in the design of my book. Those who have taken the DIY route will understand; the small changes that I made overrode the formatting, and I had to fix all 368 pages of it. I thought that it would take a few weeks to fix. I am not the best at formatting. Also I am lazy, and lack discipline and willpower.
So, I thought I would give myself a head start and format at least the first few chapters. I soon learned that all the tedious time I have spent figuring out how to manually format a book has become part of my muscle memory. By the end of the hour, the entire book looked just how I wanted it to. So I exported it as a PDF, opened it in my reader and had a look at every page to make sure that there was nothing out of place. Everything was as it should be.
As I reached the final page my first reaction was “Woohoo! No more formatting! The Fifth Warrior is done!”
As I was about to get up and do a victory lap around the house, it dawned on me.
Excuse my language, but my second reaction, and this I said out loud was, “Oh shit. No more formatting. The Fifth… Warrior… is… Done?”
And then I had a mild breakdown which will forever be immortalized in voice notes I sent to my book club.
See, I started writing the Fifth Warrior when I was 16 years old. That was in 2008- nine years of routinely hacking away at one single story that was never good enough. There was always something wrong with it, and I would use that as an excuse to stay in my comfortable little bubble where it’s fun to dream, but too much effort to work at it.
It was all too easy to say “I’m going to be a writer,” and “I’m going to self- publish my books,” and “This is what I want to do with my life”. Not enough people cared to question the fact that it was so easy to say those things, I repeated them for NINE years but never had anything to show for it. Do you have any idea how satisfying it is to tell yourself comfy lies? It feels so good!
The problem is that those lies became the truth. And the truth is terrifying.
The Fifth Warrior was a safety net. It was something I (unknowingly) used to live in Neverland. When I realised that there was nothing left to work on, I found myself in the big, bad, very real world.
And that is when doubt started to sink in.
What if I go down in history as the absolute worst writer of all time? What if I don’t sell a single copy? What if choosing writing was the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life? What if people think my story is so bad, I become a meme of failure? The world of literature is scary. It’s full of hungry bookworms just waiting to tear the souls of writers apart.
Publishing my baby doesn’t seem so fun anymore.
This would stop me if not for one thing.
In the Fifth Warrior, I wrote something years ago that I never thought to change. I was trying to be poetic at the time and spewed out words that sounded cool but meant nothing to me. I decided to remove them from the story, because they were not written well. But recently, when I rediscovered an early manuscript, I read those words and their impact was incredible. They apply here.
“True Warriors are not those who take no damage, but those who bravely accept their scars”.
I am still afraid. But I don’t want to spend my life in a cozy bubble where dreams are nothing more than dreams. It goes in line with that cheesy ol’ saying: We don’t regret the things we did; we regret the things we didn’t. I don’t want to regret coming so close and then running away.
If people hate the Fifth Warrior, so be it. It’s a risk I am willing to take.
I don’t want to be a chicken anymore. I want to be an author. And for the first time in my life, it’s happening.
That’s terrifying, yes, but it’s also amazing.