Friday, November 1, 2013

I'm writing a book about fear.

image found here

I'm writing a book.

There.  I said it.  I have put it out there.  And now I can't go back.

I'm honestly so nervous about writing this post, because writing those words means that it's not just going to be a vague idea floating around in my head -- it means I have to do something.

And I've really never been great at that.

I've always loved to write.  In fact, before I was 10, I'd written most of - but not all - two "books."  One was a straight-up rip-off of Anne of Green Gables, with the unique and completely-not-even-close-to-the-same-title Green Clovers (but with a boy orphan, so you know...toootally different there) and the other one was a fourth grader's version of a Lord of the Rings fantasy.  If I remember right, the lead character in that story was Belac (which is "Caleb," spelled backwards.  Yep.).

I wrote all through middle school and high school and continued into college.  And then...I just stalled out.  Other than the writing I've done for a magazine here in town and some (sporadic) blogging, I've pretty much given up what used to be my most favorite thing.  I've stopped and started about a dozen projects, but never actually finished anything.  I didn't really know why I would lose my motivation, but I always did.

This past week, I was reading a book, and one of the characters quoted Eleanor Roosevelt.  It's a quote I've heard many times, and never thought much about, but this time, it stuck with me:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

It suddenly struck me that I couldn't remember the last time I'd done anything that truly scared me.  Now, I don't mean scared me in the sense that my life could be in danger, but something that frightened me because it was out of my character or out of my control.

Fear of looking silly.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of failure.

And then, today, after I walked past my bookshelf and glimpsed a copy of Jon Acuff's amazing book all about punching fear in the face (that's actually the subtitle, which just couldn't say it better), I had a thunderbolt thought:  What if I actually did that?  What if I spent a year doing the things that scared me?  And what if I wrote about it?

What if I didn't talk myself out of something that might be hard, but could also be a lot of fun?

I've told a total of three people about this idea.  Two of them were supportive and made me feel awesome about it.  One, a close friend, said, "Well...I wouldn't buy that book."

While that overly honest comment stung a bit, part of me wanted to laugh.  That's pretty much precisely why I want to write this book.

I am afraid that no one would want to read it.  And deep down, every time I've started a writing project and then given up, that's what I've always been afraid of.

But does that mean I shouldn't try?

No.  It most definitely doesn't.  Because maybe there's someone who needs to read that other people can live a life that's always teetering juuuuust on the edge of fulfillment and purpose because they're afraid of messing up.  I've done that for going on 34 years.  And I don't want to any more.

Healthy fear sharpens our edges.  It makes us grow.  It makes us better.

So.  Before I sit on it for too long and let my insecurity change my mind, here's my idea:

I want to spend a year doing things that scare me.  While I don't think it's practical (or really actually possible) to do one thing every day that unsettles me, I think I could do one or two things every month.

And here's where I need your help.  I need suggestions.

I need you guys to give me some ideas on things that I could do each month to take me out of my comfort zone and shake up my little humdrum life.

There are some guidelines:

1.  It has to financially feasible.  I'm not rolling in the dough, so I need to be able to afford it.
2.  Nothing stupidly dangerous (as in skydiving or base jumping.  Because that's so not going to happen.  Ever.).
3.  This is more about mental fear, not physical fear.  Yeah, I'm horrified by cockroaches, but I'm not going to gain anything by holding one for a minute.  That would fill up about one paragraph, most of which would be "AGGGGGGH!!!!" and "Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh."  Not an impressive literary start.
4.  Nothing morally questionable.  My parents are going to read this eventually.
5.  For those of you who know me really well, I welcome really personal challenges.  I do ask that you don't post those on Facebook or on the comments below.  If it's personal, email me or private message me, por favor.

The goal is to gather suggestions for the next month or so and then to start this project in December, so I could finish the book by the beginning of January 2015.

While I'm not going to post each complete chapter to the blog, I will keep everybody updated with my progress with some excerpts.

So...whew.  Deep breath.

I'm afraid.  But that's the point, right?

So let me hear some ideas - let's start my year of fear!!


Steve Babin said...

I can't wait to read about your adventures!!
How do you feel about motorcycles? That would be an easy entry in the logbook! (Oh, and for the record, skydiving is not nearly as dangerous as you think...)

Amanda said...

Thanks, Steve! Ok. Do you mean riding ON a motorcycle or DRIVING a motorcycle? Because either of those things makes me super nervous. :-)

Laura said...

I love this idea! *I* would buy that book. It's definitely in the vain of A Year of Living Biblically, The Happiness Project, and other gems. I think this is a great personal challenge and I look forward to following along.

I don't have any suggestions at the moment but will comment later if I come up with any!

Amanda said...

Thank you, Laura!

Laura B said...

Go to a random park and start playing and singing your music.

Go to an event sponsored by a different culture with which you are unfamiliar.

Play a pick up game. I prefer basketball, of course. Or you could ride a horse...

Take a cooking (or other hobby-type) class.

Wear a costume out on a random day.

Slip a $10 bill into a couple best sellers at a bookstore with a note to bless someone.

Pay for someone's dinner.

I love this idea! I will try to contain my suggestions.

Cyndi Hayward said...

You could attend a clown convention. :)

Seriously though, good for you! I'm eager to read the journey.

Amanda said...

Laura -- YAY! Thank you!

These are fantastic! And some of them made my palms sweat just reading them, so that's even better. :-)

Amanda said...

Haha, Cyndi!

That would make me comPLETEly uncomfortable!!!

Aunt Lisa said...

Volunteer to work at a place that does pedicures...

Amanda said...

Aunt Lisa -- how dare you?!

That's beyond scary. That's horrifying.

Holly Jo said...

Take yoga, spin, or dance classes

For a month, you have to use foreign spices or ingredients in every dinner you cook (like Indian spices)

You can't watch TV for a month. Maybe this could be "fear of boredom" chapter?

No excuses for a month: to yourself or to others

Train for and participate in a half marathon

Invite company to your apartment at least once every week

Amanda said...

Thanks, Holly Jo -- you know exactly what would make me squirm. These are good.

Holly Jo said...

Just thought of some more:

Go to a renaissance fair

Mail a card to a different person every day for a month

Post a song on Youtube every week for a year or every day for a month

Amanda said...

Um, these are fantastic. Maybe you should help me write this book. Or at least be my editor.

Amanda said...

For some reason, all I can think about is "Super Fun Night" and her Renaissance Fair comment.

Maiken said...

Amanda I want to recommend this really awesome book.....only it is in Danish (hey could that be somethings scary: learn a new language that only 6 million people in the world speak??). translated it is called ""truths from a liar" - broken pictures from an adults life". the authoir Julia Lahme challenged herself by NOT lying - to herself, about herself....the small white lies (yes your new haircut is sooooo pretty - when it is not) or the big lies (I am really happy with my life - when everything stinks). it is all about being honest eventhough it that makes you vulnerable. Julia also did another brave thing in her book about becoming a mother for the first time (and believe me: everything about motherhood is scary - the pregnancy with all the changes the body goes through, the birth...... and being responsible for a tiny new life). Julias book is titled "where did i put the baby - confessions from a mother" and describes how her maternity leave ended up being not quite as she had imagined......with some very funny stories about misplacing her baby (not many mothers will admit to this). I am not suggesting you should become pregnant as a challenge for your book project, because I know that you would probably want to find a husband first. And although I do believe in love at first sight and that short engagements can end happily ever after, I do not believe one should rush in to a relationship as a challenge. But I think you could get some feedback from many couples standing at the altar about to say "I do" about "fear". If you read bwtween the lines I have just revealed some of my fears: failing as a wife and as a mother. But besides learning Danish, I could suggest a visit to Denmark and impress everybody with your language skilss.... I'll be your "safety net". However I already think you have acted very brave by admitting you do have fears....
I hope you will find personal challenges, funny challenges, not too dangerous challenges, and I hope the process will be rewarding for you and all the potentiel readers of the book that it could/should result in.

Amanda said...

Oh my gosh, Maiken -- this made me miss you SO MUCH! I laughed out loud at your "I'm not suggesting you get pregnant for this challenge" comment. I think your suggestions are GREAT!!
I think that the fears you mentioned are fears that most (if not all) women have, if they're really, truly honest with themselves. But that is an interesting viewpoint, too -- what scares couples - not just women?
Now I really want to read this book, too, so maybe I will have to learn Danish after all.
And I really want to come see you, too! I can still sort of remember how to say something in Danish that sounds like "glot-ni-gul," but I can't remember what it actually means...