Conquering Fear. Or Not.


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It‘s spring! And for me that means I get super productive – I’ve had half a dozen story ideas show up, I’ve outlined 3 novellas and a YA novel, I’ve even finished a short story (almost). But the one thing I haven’t been able to do is finish the revision of Time Bound. You may remember that I had to do some pretty significant chopping based on feedback from my CPs. 

Well, I’ve gotten halfway through, and now I’m stuck. I love this story. I believe in it. But it scares the HELL out of me. It was a stretch for me to write, and all of the fears that normal writers have about their works are here – it’s not good enough, the opening is boring, the dialogue is stilted, my author voice is coming through, it’ll never be good enough. I should just give up.

But, there are also a couple of added fears that are weighing me down. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a white girl from the mid-west. My book is set in Japan, about Japanese people. What gives me the right to think I can portray this group of people without my own white privilege coming into play? Am I treating them with respect? Is this something I should have even written about in the first place?  I’ve been fascinated with Japan for a long time, and I deeply respect and admire the people and the culture, but is that enough? Am I telling a story that would be better told by someone else? Am I taking away someone’s voice?

The amazing Ellen Oh has a fantastic series of posts about what Diversity means to a series of authors and agents, and it’s reassuring to see that there are other people out there focused on bringing more diverse voices to literature, from all sorts of backgrounds. I wanted to write something outside of the normal European-based fantasy, despite, or perhaps because I’ve read and loved so many of those types of books. But I also LOVE other cultures and if I could have one super power, it would be the ability to step into someone else’s shoes for a time. To really know how they feel, how they see the world, how the world sees them. Unfortunately, I can only do this through stories. So, I’ve done my research, I’ve talked to as many people as I can about my characters and assumptions and setting. But, there’s still the huge fear there that I’ve failed miserably, and am going to offend everyone who reads this book.

So yeah, I’ve been putting a ton of pressure on myself to make Time Bound perfect. Which is not helping with the revisions because it’s impossible for any book to be perfect. I’ve been stalled on writing new chapters and on fixing old chapters because, to be honest, how can I live up to the expectations I’ve set for the story and myself? Or what if I offend or let people down with this story?

At this point, I’m not even sure what the next steps are for going forward. I love this story too much to give up on it, I want to tell Tam’s story, and Holly’s and Izuko’s. But somehow I have to get out of my own head long enough to finish it. To put aside all the fear and just do it. To be honest, I’m even having a hard time clicking publish on this blog post because I’m afraid!

But, As Nelson Mandela says: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” So yeah. I think it’s time to start conquering.

How about you guys? Anything ever stop you from finishing what you start?

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. That’s what I’m here for, we’ll make it work.  Hopefully your gmail will work again – I’m gonna write you back.

  2. That’s the spirit! As for diversity, bravo to you for stepping outside your comfortable cultures. The fear is always going to be there, but it sounds like you’re doing your best to be well-researched and respectful and that’s all any of us can ask for. Good luck with the revisions! You can do it! Rah rah!

  3. Jamie, this resonates so strongly with me.  I went through the same sort of panic with Blair.  I am not a gay man–what if I get something horribly, terribly wrong?

    I agree with Krispy–bravo to you for taking this on!  Re: Timebound specifically, I’m a hapa myself, but I didn’t remark too much on this aspect of the book because Holly’s experience is so different from mine.  Which is just fine–my own siblings’ experiences have also been very different from mine (my sister, who looks much more Asian than I do and is very femme, gets all the “ni hao” stupid pickup lines from men; whereas people tend to treat me as white and then sometimes even make offensive Asian jokes, which is like wow.  I even had a professor do it one time).

    I guess that’s part of what makes writing from the point of view of a different culture or experience challenging.  Even if you talk to someone with a similar background, the experiences may not overlap.  And it can be hard to find readers who fit that aspect (I mean really, how many hapas do you know?).  When I went through my panic with Blair, I grabbed up as much queer YA lit as I could find and started reading it.  I found this to be very helpful, in addition to CP feedback.