Friday, December 12, 2014

Writers, Do the Things That Scare You

Over the weekend, I went with my family to Disneyland and California Adventure.

(Yes, I'll give you a moment to be jealous . . . Okay, moment's over. Back to reading.)

Most of you are familiar with the rides at Disneyland; they're all fun, kid-friendly attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, etc. Being a Disney park, California Adventure is also family-friendly, but it has a few rides that are geared more toward adults. Or at least children that are way less chicken than I was at their age (or height).

Not pictured here: me as a little girl, looking as though I'm about to be murdered coming down Splash Mountain.
One of California Adventure's thrill rides is called The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For those of you who aren't familiar with the ride, it's a drop tower. It brings you waaaay up, drops you, brings you back up, drops you again. It does this a couple times, and it's a blast. Seriously, I love this ride. It's possibly my favorite between the two parks.

I am also terrified of going on it basically every time. There's a lot of suspense to the ride, as you wind your way through the hotel lobby, enter a room that plays a Twilight Zone-esque video, then wind your way through the hotel boiler room, and then even once you're seated in the service elevator itself, there's more theatre. Even the cast members are dressed like hotel concierges and speak in a spooky way. Disney doesn't do things half-way. Everything looks and feels authentic to the setting.

It's great! But the suspense just kills me. Every time, I think, "eh, maybe I'll just skip it." Because it's easier than dealing with the nerves while standing in line.

This last time I went on the ride, it occurred to me that my response to the Tower of Terror is similar to the response of many writers on their path to publication.

You know you want to be published; you know it's going to be Awesome with a capital A.

You know what's involved on the journey to get there: query, agent, editors, etc. You're not Lewis and Clark going West. Many have gone before you, and can offer advice and tell you how it works.

But it's still terrifying, right?

So much could go wrong! Your query could suck; an agent might not be able to sell your book; no editor will take you; the ride might malfunction, causing the service elevator to shoot through the roof, thus crushing you to paste while other park guests watch, their faces framed with horror! OH THE HUMANITY.

Er, ignore that last one.

You might think to yourself, How much easier would it be to just keep my stories here, in the safety of my computer? After all, Google Docs won't judge that vampire sci-fi you've been working on. Better not to try than to fail horribly, right?

I'm going to tell you something now, and I want you to hear me. (This goes out to future!Me, too. Don't think I don't see you shuffling your feet and making excuses, future!Me. I know us too well.)

As writers, we have to do the things that scare us.

Maybe that means taking a chance on a plot or a character, even when you're not sure you can do it justice. DO IT ANYWAY. Maybe you have a completed, polished manuscript that's just languishing away in the digital recesses of your computer because you're too afraid to put it out there where an agent can see it. DO IT ANYWAY. Maybe you're already a published author, worried about what some family members will think about X in your next story. WRITE IT ANYWAY.

To be an artist is to be at war with fear. Fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear even of self, of what you might uncover as you rifle through your subconscious, hunting for honest emotion. But you can't let fear stop you from doing what you love. You can't use fear as an excuse.

To paraphrase the immortal Captain Jack Sparrow, "If you were waiting for a sign, this is it, mate."

Consider this your call to action.

And if we ever go to California Adventure together, I expect to see you in line with me for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

But not for those Silly Symphony swings. Let's not get crazy.


  1. I feel the same way about all of the above! The Tower of Terror terrifies me and even though I get so anxious in line while I wait, I keep going back because I love it! Apparently I like to torture myself. The publishing process is the same way. I give myself peps talks all the time to keep at it and not give up. It terrifies me to put myself out there, and I'm so anxious while I wait, but I keep doing it over and over again because, hey, why not?

    1. I knew I wasn't the only one! It's always funny to stand in line for that ride; you can just feel the nerves, especially once everyone's seated in the elevator. So much fun!

      I find giving others pep talks also serves as a personal reminder to myself as well. Plus, it's like the description for Space Mountain: a high-speed, turbulent, roller coaster-style adventure. Sounds just like publishing to me! And like any thrill ride, it's much more enjoyable with friends and allies. ;)

  2. I'll face the fear of the publishing road with you H, but you can have the tower of terror on your own!!!! The Scooby Doo ride at MovieWorld freaked me out.
    Writing is scary, but oh so worth it. The journey alone is amazing, I can only imagine what it will be like to hit the big 'P'.

    1. I've never been to MovieWorld, but I just looked it up and it looks fun! If I ever get over to Australia, I'll have to go. ;)

      The journey alone is amazing, I can only imagine what it will be like to hit the big 'P'.

      It's definitely going to be an experience, that's for sure!