The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

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What Your Tribe Says About You

Tribe has still been on my mind a lot.  This past week I was thinking about how the tribe(s) we belong to effect how we age and how we feel about getting older.  

All tribes have expectations about how you should act in all parts of your life, and aging is one of them.  But tribes don’t hand you a list of rules when you join (but that would be so convenient).  We are drawn to tribes through mutual interests or we are born in to them in family or community.  If you pay close attention, there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) messages about behaviors that are acceptable in that group for every age.  


Growing up I had an Aunt who was a blast.  She and her family were very social, very involved with their church and the local VFW.  They constantly had really fun parties at their house.  My Aunt was a big woman, but the thing I remember most about her was how stylish she was.  She went to the salon every week to have her hair styled and get a mani/pedi (bright red, of course).  Those social groups were her tribe and the time, effort and money she invested into looking glamorous was part of being a member of those tribes.  She was following the unspoken formula to be a member in good standing of that tribe.  

Other tribes can really suck the life out of you.  The fearful tribe comes to mind.  This group spends an inordinate amount of time looking for signs of the end of the world and preparing for it.  Not only does the stress of living this lifestyle make you look and feel old, but their focus is never on things as useless as beauty and fun.  My Aunt would have been seen as a frivolous and silly for enjoying her life instead of spending it fearing the oncoming doom (that never happened in her lifetime anyway).  

I am also avoiding any women-hating tribes.  These don’t usually actively advertise that they hate women, but they spend a lot of time and energy suppressing women’s beauty, sensuality, joy, power.  The saddest thing about these tribes is that it is almost always the women in the group who hold each other down.  God forbid any of them get so uppity as to try some blue nail polish or spend an hour or so on themselves, exercising or primping or just being a girl.  

The final tribe I am running from is the nay-sayers.  No one in this group is ever going to be successful and they make sure of this by knocking any big idea or dream you might have.  This group shuns and punishes those who dare to reach beyond the rest of the group.  Gossip is their favorite weapon and they are easy to spot on social media.  They post hate rants about whatever or whoever is the current media rage.  Members are rewarded with praise by other members for taking the time to write hate letters to Miley Cyrus or create mocking videos on YouTube.  I stumbled on a writers group the other day who have dedicated an entire forum to writing biting criticism of “50 Shades of Grey”.  Jealousy never makes you feel young (childish maybe).  

The best news is that you get to chose your tribe(s).  If you find yourself in one that doesn’t suit you, don’t stick with it because it’s the people in your neighborhood or people you work with, etc.  Go out and consciously find people you truly connect with, who build you up, enhance your life, and make you feel genuinely happy to be whatever age you are.