I spent six hours writing a whole different draft of this blog post that wound up coming out as something akin to a horror movie; dark, threatening, and with almost zero light at the end of the tunnel.
Not exactly the kind of tone you want to set for a brand new year, is it?
But in taking my fingers off the keyboard and eating some lunch while a few episodes of The West Wing played on Netflix, I realized that the reason the previous draft of this post came out like a horror movie was because I’d lost focus on the real reason I was writing it in the first place.
My one, solitary New Year’s resolution.
To free myself from fear.
Now, obviously I could go on about how fear is an innate, biological response to certain stimuli, but I think that’s a bit too literal a take for the purposes of this post. After all, I’m a writer, and where’s the fun in writing if you don’t get to indulge in a free few moments of theatricality? That said, all kidding aside of course, I think this could be the most important new year’s resolution I’ve ever set for myself. Because looking back on my life, especially in the wake of my 2017, I have been an incredibly fear-driven person. There are so many things I wish I could’ve gone back and done differently, now that I have a much higher level of self-confidence than I did way back when. And even today, here now in these present times, I still find myself doing or not doing certain things because I’m afraid of what could happen. I’ve been afraid of getting hurt, I’ve been afraid of losing something dear to me, I’ve even been afraid of being afraid in some instances. And in each and every one of these cases, these fears have stopped me from doing something that hindsight has told me unequivocally I should’ve done.
So for 2018, I say no more. I say not again, and I say never again.
Because the thing that 2017 has shown me, repeatedly and with startling clarity, is that the big and exciting changes that I’m sure we all hope for in our own ways? They don’t happen if we let ourselves be cowed by our own fears into the same old dreary routines that we so desperately seek to break out of.
For the longest time (far too long in the eyes of most, probably even myself if you pushed me to it), I didn’t get a normal 9 – 5 job because I was afraid that it would mark me a failure, and because I was afraid I’d fail at it. I was afraid of dealing with people on regular basis, I was afraid of screwing it up and letting people down, and I was afraid of getting fired because I screwed up and let people down. But then in July of 2016, I found something that mattered more to me than not being a failure. I found something that mattered so much to me that I was willing to risk failure (my actual greatest fear) in order to make something happen.
I found GuardianCon, and the Destiny Twitch community that made it possible.
So I got my first job.
I got my first job and I used it to pay for my cross-country trip to GuardianCon 2017. That was the first time I’d ever booked, bought, and went on any kind of trip completely by myself, and that in and of itself was a whole series of fears that I had to face. But you know what? I faced them. I faced them, I overcame them, and I had a truly life-changing experience because of it. One that I am still feeling the ripple effects of all these months later.
Which brings me back to my New Year’s Resolution.
To free myself from fear.
There is a very specific person I have to thank for this. Someone that I’ve met through Twitch who continues to be a surprising source of inspiration to me. Not just as a streamer, but also as a person. Because this resolution is actually the result of a conversation that I had with them months ago about fearlessness and not getting what you don’t ask for. It was a conversation that wandered back into my head yesterday morning as I was out for my morning walk, trying to figure out just what the hell I was going to do with all the different writing problems and projects I had rattling around in my head. I was honestly starting to freak out a little over it all, and then in walks this memory, almost out of the blue. So I start thinking about it and as I’m starting to think about it, I begin to realize that there was actually something there. I could feel it, like this subtle tugging at my heart, as if something’s trying to pull me towards this specific direction. So I went back to the conversation and staring turning it over, pulling apart the various lines and exchanges, and looking under just about every other word and letter, trying to find the answer to a question I couldn’t quite remember asking.
And then I found it.
I was afraid.
I was still afraid.
I was still afraid of the one thing that I kept telling myself I was almost ready for.
“Just one more book,” I would say. “Just this one or two, or maybe three more books, and then you’ll finally be ready to tackle the big one.”
My heart felt like it cracked under the weight of this realization.
All this time, all this planning, all this work… and it was all because I was still trying to run away from the one book that I told everyone means more to me than just about anything else.
This book, this story… quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me. Because that’s just it, The Demon is Hell. My Hell. It is the fictional distillation of the Hell that I’ve spent the last thirteen years of my life trying to crawl out of, and every time I’ve tried to write it in the past, I’ve felt the remnants of that Hell boil back to life in my soul. Because to write The Demon is to travel back to that Hell. To write The Demon is to stand on the edge of that abyssal pit and look back down, to feel the infernal heat of it burning through my flesh and to see the monsters writhing within the flames, screaming and screeching that my true place in the world is back down there with them.
So I run away. I run as far and as fast as my mental and emotional legs will carry me, paying no heed to the fact that there’s still a great, big, gaping hole back there that leads straight into the depths of Hell. And even from a distance, the gleeful, taunting shrieks of the beasts that live within it echo through the breeze. In the moments where I hear those echoes, I know the only way to silence them for good is to travel right back to the edge of that pit and face them down once and for all. To accept all of the pain and grief they’ve inflicted on me and use that acceptance to break the final chain of theirs that’s still wrapped around my heart.
And yet, as ever, it’s the fear of failure that stops me.
What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s not enough? What if they do actually convince me this time that it’ll be better for everyone if I just jump right back into their pit and get this whole charade over with? These questions and all their myriad permutations are what fly through my mind every time I try to sit down and seriously think about writing The Demon, and every time those questions have the same answer: “Eh, don’t worry about it. We’ll think of something else. There’s always a different story you could write to try and launch your career as an author.”
Except that this isn’t just about my career as an author, and that answer is rotted to the core with fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, but most importantly, fear of my own past. Fear that if I look too far back for too long, my past will somehow consume my present and ruin my future. Which might sound like a not-unreasonable fear, were it not for the fact that this fear itself is a child of that past and listening to it now really will be my past consuming my present, and potentially ruining my future.
And so to this I say no more. I say not again, and I say never again.
I say that 2018 will be the year that I free myself from this fear.
I say that 2018 will be the year that I finally finish The Demon.
Happy New Year, everybody. 😊