Joan Didion, my absolute all time favorite author ever of all time ever, said that we tell ourselves stories in order to live.
Story: I am intelligent, honest, loyal, and a generally nice person.
Story: I live with an open heart and I am stronger, better person because of it.
Story: The idea of success scares the hell out of me.
What the what?
The truth is that the fact that I’m an intelligent, honest, loyal, and generally nice person has done nothing to contribute to my career path. Apparently, the real world doesn’t operate in hearts, flowers, glitter, and bubbles. But neither is it helpful that every time I seem to get close to something one would generally consider success (in work, in relationships, the list goes on), I pretty much abandon ship, citing reasons such as, “I’m just not ready,” or “I just felt like moving back to California,” or “I have to learn how to be a whole person without the validation of financial achievement or personal attachments.” Yeeeah.
Many a therapist have told me, “You’re afraid of success,” which never made any sense to me at all. Why would anyone be afraid of success? I would ask as I cancelled meetings with movie producers and turned down corporate jobs with giant salaries. Not me!
So, as I begin to pack for the Blog World Expo happening in NYC next week, I notice that my hands start shaking a little bit. You would think that if I am attending the (insert reverb here) Bloooog Wooorld Expoooo, that I would be a semi-pro at this stuff. Not true. I signed up on a whim and now I leave in a week.
First of all, I don’t consider myself a blogger. I’m a writer and the blogging thing is new to me and the only thing I truly know about it is that I am waaaay behind. (Next therapy session: The utter disappointment I feel if I don’t overachieve on Day One of trying something new.) And so, of course, with my amoeba-like sense of career goals and life direction right now, I decided to do what anyone relatively new to anything would do: Attend the most gigantic, intimidating, trial-by-fire three day conference on the topic at hand and pretend that I know what the hell I’m doing. Duh.
Except that I don’t even know enough to pretend. I’m going to be stuck wandering the halls of the Javits Center on the west side asking random blogger-attendees if they know what a Tweet deck is. Seriously. They will sense my fear. They will eat me for blogger lunch. They will look down their hipster glasses at me over lattes and shake their heads sadly at my desperate cries of, “But I’m a good writer! I just don’t know how to do Google analytics yet!” I’m toast.
So, where does my fear of success fit into all of this? Because instead of sitting down and linking my blog to my Twitter account, I’m watching back to back episodes of “Scandal” and “Revenge” while noshing on peanut butter straight from the jar with a fork. (True story.) And I’m scared. I’m truly I-feel-like-I’m-gonna-puke freaked out.
You know…I’ve done the whole travelling alone through foreign countries thing. I’ve been questioned by border military officers on overnight trains in the middle of nowhere (Don’t tell my mom). I swordfight. I surf. I stand on stage and tell stories that other people don’t always want to hear. I lead with my heart. I would consider myself pretty brave. Mostly.
So, why does the thought of entering this brand new world full of stuff I love to do freak the hell out of me? “You’re afraid of success,” the voice tells me. So…what? I’m afraid of using my voice? That no one will think I have anything to say? That it won’t be relevant? So what?
What happens if, on the odd chance, I find out that I do have something to say? That my voice is relevant? What if I learn just enough to get me to the next phase of my writing career (let’s call that the “Phase Where I Make an Income,” shall we?) and who knows? Something magical happens? Or – gasp – I work really hard and my hard work pays off? One of my acting teachers once said to me, “Well, you know, if you stand on a street corner long enough, someone is going to come by who can use you.” That sounded much better in Sam Schacht’s acting class than it does as I type it here, but you know what I mean. Another grad school adage: Persistence Alone Is Omnipotent.
So, my new course of action: When my hands start to shake or I find myself readily anticipating Emily Thorne’s next infinity move, I will do my work instead of believing the story of my fear. And even though I know I will be blogger-scorned in New York, that doesn’t have to be my story, either.
Because, as a writer, the one thing I should know for sure is that