Monday, May 16, 2011

What If

Me: Guess what I bought with the Mother’s Day money you sent me.
Mom: What?
Me: Roller skates!
Mom: Are you sure that’s a good idea?
Me: I’ve been wanting some for a long time. I get bored walking, but I love to skate.
*awkward silence*
Mom: But what if you fall?

What if. Those two words keep us away from too many adventures.

What if the editor hates my story? What if the agent reads my query to her cool agent friends and they cackle loudly over wine and cupcakes? What if my husband’s grandmother is so offended by my YA that my descendants and I are permanently banished from all family events? What if I agree to do a school visit and the kids hate me?

Sound familiar? The scary thing about the “what ifs” is that the awful scenarios we come up with can happen. So what do we do to keep them from handicapping us? I have two ideas about this. The first is to focus on the better possibilities.

What if I am the disco queen on my new roller skates? What if the editor loves my story? What if the agent posts my query on her blog as a how to guide for other writers? What if my husband’s grandmother chooses not to read my book—but is proud of me for writing it? Let’s face it, most grandmothers would be offended by most YA. What if the kids at the school visit love me and commit to buying every book I ever write?

Those things could happen too, you know.

But if the happy thoughts get overwhelmed by the terrified ones, remember this: Courage is not being without fear. Courage is acting in spite of fear. Picture Peter, from THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. His sister Susan is trapped in a tree with a leg dangling down in front of a snarling, snapping wolf:

“Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. (Lewis 127)”

So be brave, friends. Focus on the great things that can happen if you’re willing to risk the falls. And if you do fall? Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off and try again. I’m rooting for you.

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1970.


  1. Please share what works for you when battling the "what ifs," or if you're feeling especially saucy, tell us one brave thing you will try this week. :)

  2. I've taken to asking myself, "What could go right?" rather than "What can go wrong?". The positive spin make s a big difference.

    I tried a new thing this morning. I'm not sure where it's from, but it's a well known writer's exercise: I wrote three pages of whatever popped into my head first thing this morning. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't really all that hard either.

    I think it had me warmed up for WIP when I sat down to do that a couple of hours later.

  3. Love the conversation with your mom. Mine called FOUR times last week to warn me that there was a storm watch in my area. I am 45! :)

    I kind of wrote about battling the fear this week too. I had a difference of opinion with my agent and had to call her and tell her I wanted to stick with MY version of the story.

  4. Jim, good for you for trying new things, and congrats on finishing 6 stories in 7 days! That's impressive.

    Corey, my mom also thought I should purchase, not just a helmet, knee & elbow pads, but shoulder pads! Might as well wrap me in Charmin & bubble wrap.

  5. What if I get rejected 100 times? But get accepted 5? That's FIVE books I didn't have before! (no, this is NOT autobiographical!) What if my song sounds terrible - but it blesses the one couple in the church who needed to hear it? What if I step out in faith...and things don't turn out the way I envision, but they turn out FAR better than I could have ever imagined!

    Our "What if..." question needs to become a "What if? SO WHAT!!" declaration! :)
    What if it's hard? So what! do it anyway.
    What if it's not meant to be? So what? Try it anyway.
    What if I am afraid? So what! Now you fit in with most everyone else who is trying something new or scary!

    Great question my friend. And it begs the question... What if you had never posted it? WELL... I wouldn't have been able to leave this extremely long and almost hijack-ish like post! ;)


  6. I love the "so whats!" Stepping out on faith involves, not just believing everything will go your way, but trusting that you'll be okay whatever the outcome. Thanks, Donna.

  7. Laura,

    Terrific post and comments from readers! What ifs stop us a lot. Let's don't give them that power.

    This week, I'm rewriting a PB and believing it is much better. It has to be, I'm a much better writer than when I did the original version. How about that? Stands to reason then!

  8. Go Linda! Good for you! I hope it shines when you are finished.

    And thanks for the blog love. My readers are full of awesome. : )

  9. Go rollerskating! I haven't been for about five years, and I think it's awesome! I totally agree..."what if's" are no fun, on so many levels.


  10. Thanks for the encouragement, Carla! Maybe I'll do a vlog of me roller skating. I love to skate, but have never tried a video blog post.

  11. I'm so glad I read your post today. It's a great boost. Thanks, Laura!

    I love the idea of turning the What If around. What if we don't write our manuscript, query an agent or question our editor? We'll never know if we might have succeeded.