Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dust bunnies under the bed

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Fear is a funny thing. For each of us, fear takes hold at different times and manifests itself in different ways. Some people are scared of bugs. Others are terrified of the dark. Fear can cause you to scream aloud or go soundlessly still.

The dark doesn’t scare me. And I admit to enjoying the rush of adrenaline that strikes when I watch horror films or go through a haunted house. Things that go bump in the night make me laugh and spiders….well, as long as they aren’t huge and hairy, I’m pretty happy to smack them with a shoe and move on. Does that mean I’m without fear? Ha! Not in your life. Lots of things scare me. Especially failure.

Which is funny when you think about it. My entire adult life has been comprised of fields that involve rejection. Acting, singing, modeling, writing…. You would think I have spent most of my existence cowering next to the dust bunnies under the bed. (Yes, my bed has dust bunnies under it. Sue me!) And yet, for some reason, I have never equated rejection with failure. Not being a good fit for something doesn’t mean I have failed. It just means I’m not quite right this time. Semantics? Maybe. But it works for me. My fear doesn’t arrive when I’m hoping to hear yes. It comes after the fact. That’s when my fear of failure sets in.

I realized this years ago after snagging my first professional lead. After getting the phone call, I danced around the room, called my family to share the news and bounced off the walls for a couple of hours. Then reality set in. Fear set it. Was I good enough to pull off the role? Would my leading man (being flown in from NYC for the show) think I was too young and inexperienced? Would the press blast me in the reviews?

All that before I ever step foot into a rehearsal. Do I know how to be neurotic or what?

Good news is that I made it through rehearsals. My leading man was awesome. The reviews were good. The next time I got the call telling me I made a show the fear wasn’t as strong. Because I knew I could do it. Maybe I wouldn’t always be perfect. But I’d get the job done.

I find I am reminding myself of that experience a lot lately. Why? Because once again I am terrified of failure. I have turned in the second round of revisions on THE TESTING to my amazing editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s and have started writing book two of the trilogy. And fear has set in. This is not the first book that was under contract before I started writing it. But it is the first with huge expectations from the publisher. Being the lead title for Spring of 2013 is exciting. It is also terrifying.

Trust me when I say I’m not complaining. I am grateful for this chance even as I am terrified that I will blow it. That book 2 will not be what the publisher hopes. That I will disappoint. Which is why I keep reminding myself of my first professional leading performance over a decade ago. Back then, no matter how scared I was, I walked on stage and told the story. I will do no less now. Will I be brilliant? Maybe. Maybe not. But the show will go on. The story will be told. The deadline will be met.

As writers, we battle fear in our own way every day. Some days we win the battle. Some days the fear overwhelms us. But we always get up, dust ourselves off and sit back down at the computer ready to try again. Published or unpublished—we all face the same blank screen and the worry we aren’t doing the story justice. And yet we make the choice to keep writing. Yeah—we’re all nuts. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Jean Willett said...

Hi Joelle,
Thanks for the reminder! I'm in the "get up, dust myself off and figure out where the story went.." stage. It's hard and self-doubt does an awful number on me personally. So, now it's back to the desk and the keyboard as I mentally tell myself, what's the worst than can happen? A bonfire of I keep writing.
Good luck with The Testing!!

Becke Davis said...

Joelle - The fear is understandable, but I KNOW you can do this! I'm sooo excited for you! I'll put these on my wish list right now.

Dru said...

Fear can be our friend as it pushes us to move forward. Good luck with The Testing.

Thomas Pluck said...

I never thought I'd say writing was the profession for adrenaline junkies facing their worst fears to put beans on the table, but you make a very compelling point!