by Riley Redgate
I am studying for a degree in Economics. I am the type of person that economists call, kindly, "risk-averse." This is a much more forgiving term than "a large wimp," but in my mind, they're synonyms. I admit it! I am a large wimp. This is objectively true. I hate roller-coasters because of the panic centers in my brain that helpfully supply scenarios in which I fly, screaming, off roller-coasters and to my doom. I hate walking home alone at night because of an overactive imagination, which plants serial killers behind every ominous-looking dumpster, and also because I am a human female. And I hate deep water because Jesus, have you guys seen The Perfect Storm?
I'm getting published next year, and it's surreal and wonderful, and part of me is still expecting to wake up from what is clearly a fever dream. People understand those emotions, those of disbelief and excitement, which I've been experiencing ever since the sale. I haven't spoken nearly as much about the fear.
It's kind of a mood-killer. What If, the fear helpfully supplies, every review for the book is filled with the most vitriolic hatred imaginable? What If the general reader response doesn't even merit hatred, and is a resounding 'meh'? What If you sell exactly two copies, and they are to your parents and your sister? What If your words are lost within this wash of human noise in a virtual instant, and ground down to nothingness by the inevitable progression of time? (That last one will certainly happen, which is rough.)
Most of my fears terrify me because they are unanswerable. What if I fall overboard in deep water? I don't know. I could get eaten by a shark (which would be sad, because I love sharks). I could do the boring thing and drown. The difference between that sort of fear and writing fears are twofold: 1) I'm not going to die from bad reviews. I'm just not. And more importantly, 2) with writing, I have an answer to all the horrible hypotheticals in my head.
So, What If every terrible thing I'm imagining does in fact come to fruition after I'm published? What if it's all exactly as horrible as my pessimist side imagines?
Well, too bad. I guess I'll keep writing, because it's a compulsion.
Whether you're just starting to draft that first novel or on the road to your eighth publication, if you're afraid, that's all right. The only question that matters is this one: do you need to write? If the answer's yes, then the fears don't matter. Which isn't to say they're not valid. Just that they can be beaten by sheer stubbornness.
I need to write. This is the only thing that calms my nerves, because nobody can stop me from continuing, no matter what happens. Unless, of course, we become subjected to an Orwellian dystopia, and an overreaching governmental hand snatches all writing materials from my grasp. In which case I will move to Canada.
Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a senior at Kenyon College represented by Caryn Wiseman. Her debut novel, Seven Ways We Lie, will be released by Abrams/Amulet in Spring 2016. Her site is here, and she Tweets here.