I had planned for my next blog post to be about books since I did a first line Friday last week and received some really amazing first lines (some from published books, some from WIP’s), but I received some disturbing news that put those plans on hold for a while. Late last night, I learned that L.K. Madigan, a fellow member of the 2009 Debutantes group I’m a part of, passed away. Her books were FLASH BURNOUT and THE MERMAID’S MIRROR, and she was 47.
The day before yesterday I learned that Perry Moore, the author of HERO (a story about a gay teen who is a superhero), also recently passed away. He was 39.
Although I didn’t know either one of these authors, never met either one of these authors, I’m terribly overcome by sadness. Tears feel like they are constantly at the back of my eyelids and my throat is scratchy, ready to tighten up at any moment. Facing your own mortality is a hard thing to do and it’s made even harder by knowing that we’ll never have the chance to read more books from these authors. Losing someone is tough. Even someone you don’t know. Losing someone who is also creative? Who enriches the fabric of our culture and adds to our lives with their words? Kind of a double whammy.
This is a hard thing to admit as a “public” person, as an author, but I’m going to do it. I’m laying it all out on the line here. I’m going to tell you what this keeps leading me back to. One word: fear.
Not fear of death or dying, but fear of living. My fear of living.
I’m afraid to write certain books. I’m afraid to delve into new worlds. I’m afraid I’ll get the characters wrong, or the ethnicities mixed up, or offend someone unintentionally. Who am I to write about being a gay boy? Or a black student who’s going to a school where she can’t drink from the same water fountain as the white students? Who am I to write about gang fights out in the parking lot, homecoming dances, stealing my parent’s car, or having a baby while I’m still a senior in high school? I’ve never experienced any of those things. Who am I to write about them?
I’m afraid that people won’t like me. I’m afraid that people will judge me. That people won’t like my books, or my hair, or the way I sign my name, or certain characters that I write who don’t have the same political views that I do... I’m afraid that I can’t please everyone. I’m afraid to let people down. I’m afraid that no one will say “You too?! I thought I was the only one.”
I’m afraid that the book I’m trying to write right now is too big for me to wrap my thoughts around. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do it justice. I’m afraid that I’ll get the world wrong, or the dialect wrong, or that it won’t be “big” enough, or “commercial” enough, or sexy enough, or fast enough.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.
But what I’m mostly afraid of? That I won’t have the chance to write all the books I want to write because I’m too busy being afraid.
If there’s one good thing to take away from losing two creative people so soon, I think maybe it’s the lesson: Stop being afraid. Start living. Stop thinking. Start writing. Stop listening to others. Start listening to yourself. Stop worrying. Start being hopeful. Stop putting off. Start doing.
I’m claiming those words as my personal motto for this year. I want to write new worlds and big books and have people talk about me in ways that will mean something fifty years down the road. I don’t want to miss out because I’m too busy being afraid. Who can write those worlds, those things I’ve never experienced? I can. I will. For those who have experienced them. For those who want to experience them.
Maybe I won’t get everything right. Maybe I’ll mess up, or do it wrong. But that’s okay. I just have to do it.
Stop being afraid. Start living.
Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Perry. Thank you for this lesson. Rest in peace.
A life-long book lover, and avid reader, Jessica Verday wrote her first story when she was eleven. Titled "Bobby's Bazillion Bananas" it was about a boy named Bobby who planted a banana in his backyard and it sprouted into a banana tree overnight. There were - you guessed it - a bazillion bananas. Find out more at www.jessicaverday.com
- Jessica Verday discusses LGBT equality 3/21/11
- Jessica Verday on Being Afraid 2/24/11
- Starry Night Interview 10/31/09
- WORD for Teens interview 10/23/10
- Fantastic Book Review Interview 9/8/09
- A Reader's Adventure Interview 9/2/09
- Royal Reviews Interview 9/1/09
- The Eclectic Book Lover Interview 8/26/09
- Wolfy Chicks Interview 3/3/09