Go Ahead. Jump.
I still remember shaking. I was sixteen in gym class and we were told to line up at the deep end. We were to jump in. Me, who had never been in deep water. And I did it. Fast forward, never mind how many years. I started shaking again. I was taking part in a writing course called Tribe Writers by Jeff Goins. The assignment was to write something scary. I had spent most of my life controlled by fear and now I was to walk into it?
I didn’t think I could do it. With panic, I pushed out the words and sat before the submit button for about an hour. That was even longer than when I signed up for the course. And as soon as I hit submit, negative questions bombarded me, all in my own voice:
What were you thinking?
Are you crazy?
What will they think of you?
My desire to finish the course propelled me forward past my fears.
So what happened?
Instead of feeling like I was crazy, I felt validated. And instead of feeling all alone, I found others who resonated with what I wrote.
But the biggest surprise? I wanted to do it again.
I learned I couldn’t just wait for my fears to subside. If I did, I’d never write.
The real test
In 2014, I had the ultimate test. I wrote my memoir. One of the scariest stories I ever lived. While I started out writing about my sister’s death to domestic violence, I felt a nudging to write my story as well. So, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival was written.
But could I do it? What would people think? I had been learning to deal with hard questions before. I knew there would be some people who might not like it. And that was okay because I’m not writing for everyone.
So I opened up my heart and wrote the scary stuff. The story of being physically abused as a child, the struggles in our marriage, I told it all. My life between the pages of a book for all the world to see.
At first I wanted to run and hide. I felt completely exposed, and I don’t mean like those dreams you have when you go to school and you’re in your underwear. No. Really exposed.
And then I started getting feedback. People thanked me for my transparency, some told me the book helped them.
I sighed. I did it.
I don’t write merely because I love making words dance across the paper. Although I do enjoy doing that.
I write because, for me, writing is like breathing. I have to write.
You might be wondering when my fears subsided. When did it get easier? And the answer is, after I hit send.
Does that mean I won’t be afraid anymore?
No. I just handed my book to someone. Someone who could hate it. Someone who might think I should never have written it. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
There will always be fear when we write what matters. But there is freedom too. And sometimes there are hidden surprises.
Beneath the pain
Little did I know what would happen next. For in writing the scary stuff, I had unlocked what was inside of me, under the pain. And children’s stories started flowing out of me.
Maybe you have a story inside of you too. Even a scary one. Let me just tell you this, it will be worth it. Take a step and write that first sentence. Don’t worry if you’re shaking, in fact, expect it. That means what you have to share has value.
I never did love swimming, even though I was told I would if I was willing to jump off the deep end. But writing the scary stuff is different.
Go ahead. Jump.
About Anne Peterson
I write words you can feel, sometimes they rhyme. If I'm not writing, I'm telling stories from my head, to little ones who call me grandma.