As I write, I’m sitting at a desk in my room at the Literary Arts Centre in Banff, AB. I’ve come for four days for what’s called a self-directed literary retreat. I had to submit an application, including a portion of my manuscript and was thrilled when I was accepted to the program. Now that I’m here, it’s my time to be inspired by the fresh air and snow-capped mountain vistas and work on my writing project. There’s no laundry to do, no meals to prepare, no kids to bicker in the background until I lose my mind. I’m here just for me.
Yet the task is as daunting as it is exciting. What if I’m not a good enough writer to pen a good enough book? What if I try my best and nobody wants to publish it? What if I spend two years of my life devoted to this project and nobody in the world believes it has any literary merit?
Seriously, I’m freaking myself out.
The thought of what happens if I do succeed is also scary. What if I can do it? What if my book does get published? Then what? I’m working on a memoir—what if I reveal too much? What if it upsets, angers or hurts the people in my life? And even if people like it and it ends up on bookstore shelves, what will I do next? At least now I have mentors and an MFA faculty behind me, willing to help me make this manuscript the best it can be. After I graduate in just one year, I’ll feel like a kite drifting in the wind. I’ll be like a tight rope walker without a safety net. Who will guide me then? What will I even write about next? What if I become a one-book wonder?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I realize that. Perhaps the fear of failure and the fear of success are common to all writers. Maybe these are the exact things that will propel me forward in my work? That will inspire me as much as my literary retreat setting?
So what’s writer to do in the face of self-doubt? In addition to taking long walks through town, visiting the Banff Springs Hotel, eating elk tartar and bison steak, I’m going to sit down at my desk and write, because bigger than the fear of failure of success is the fear of not trying at all. So I’m going to be brave. I’m going to try my best and not worry about what will happen in the future or whether I’ll have a big enough safety net. I’m going to get to work.