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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Today is my wedding anniversary.  I count this one as 16/20.  We’ve been married for 16 years, but together for 20.  The day we got married might be exactly 16 years ago today, but a lot of important milestones, events that formed who we are as a couple, happened in those four years that we dated.  So they count.  

The biggest event or moment happened when I decided that I might actually be interested in being married.  Before I met my husband I had absolutely no interest in marriage. I had never seen a marriage that made me think I might want that kind of life.  

So I set my sights on a career that works best if you are completely unattached, and I was sailing along, having just finished my Master’s degree when I met “the one.”  I hate the idea of love at first sight, and this wasn’t (I mean, I thought he was a real cutie, but love?).  But I did know early on, sometime in the first year that this was a really great man, the type you should marry.  He had somehow snuck in under the wire because I was committed to dating completely unmarry-able men.  

And I wasn’t all excited and happy because I had met “the one.”  I had plans and goals and now I had this amazingly perfect-for-me man who could throw a wrench in them.  But the choice was mine and I decided to throw the wrench in my plans.  My head said, “why would you sign up for marriage, you know what it’s like, ICK!”  But my heart (which was a closet romantic and gambler) said, “this guy, he’s the one, I bet you two can rewrite the script on marriage.”   Smart heart.  

Sixteen years ago today I put on an annoyingly big, heavy dress (it took two people to help me go to the bathroom in it!) and we had a big, fun party to announce to the world that we were making a life-long commitment to each other.  But in my heart, I had already made that commitment.  Twenty years ago, sometime in the fall, I paced around my apartment, and debated, and over-thought, and weighed all my options; then tossed  that all aside and took a leap of faith and love and decided not to run away, but to make a commitment to making it work with my “one” instead.  

No regrets.