Chicken

So tomorrow’s working review needs to get done and I’m sitting here listening to the overly enthusiastic toad croaking outside my window. After much agonizing and more games of Spider Solitaire than I’m willing to own up to, I have a story arc, complete with word count requirements, positive and negative emotional flip points, and names for the characters. And still, I’m just sitting here, listening to the toad, wondering if it really is a toad and not a frog, wondering how you tell the difference, wondering if it’s just one or two singing in concert. And I’m trying to work up the courage to write.

Because my challenge is tough, I’ll be posting it to another community, and if I don’t do it right, I could end up with an unfinished story and a failed challenge. I have thick skin when it comes to my writing. You can rip me up one side and down the other and all it will do is light a fire under my ass to be so damn good next time, you can’t help but praise me. But when faced with the prospect of failing, of not even making it into the running, of letting myself down, something inside me just curls up and says, “Wake me when it’s over.” It says, better to not try at all and retain the possibility of success than to risk failing for sure. Better to be numb than to try for elation at the risk of devastation.

It doesn’t matter how trivial an issue it is. It doesn’t matter if I tell myself, look, I’m not up against the Great American Novelist, this is just something fun and new. Once that instinct for self-preservation notices that I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, it starts whispering, you can’t fly; you can only possibly fall. Don’t kid yourself. You don’t have what it takes. You’re just dreaming. You’re going to get hurt. Go back inside where it’s safe. Play a game. Even if it isn’t fun, at least it won’t hurt. There’s nothing worse than failing.

I wish I could say that in my great wisdom, I have learned how to conquer this issue. I can’t. At best, I manage to bully myself into writing that first word and another and another until I tune out that voice. But I don’t know if there is a better answer than that out there.  When I’m feeling okay, I can talk about failure and how pushing past it is something every writer has to do. That failure is unavoidable, because perfection is unobtainable, but the striving is the thing that matters. But when I’m caught up in this feeling, this absolute knowledge that I cannot hope to succeed at something, all my sound advice goes out the window. All that’s left is someone small and scared who isn’t so sure that this was a good idea.

It’s late and I’m tired. I don’t have inspiration. I’ve got clenched teeth and stubbornness and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope and a fear of missing deadlines that hopefully outweighs my fear of the unknown. I’m off to see if falling can at least feel like flying for a moment or two.

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About Joyce

Joyce Sully lives in Southern California. She graduated from UC Irvine. She likes to knit and cook and play video games. But mostly she writes. Joyce writes short stories and novels, songs and poems, scripts and instructions to feed the cat if she stays out late. She has been spotted as far afield as Seattle, but travel makes her nervous. She believes in magic and dragons and ghosts, but is not convinced her next-door neighbors are real.
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