Bravery and Cowardice
“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”
- William Arthur Ward
What actions demonstrate bravery? What actions or inactions expose cowardice? These are questions that I’m asking myself these days.
A blog can be a big ego boost. I’ve been complimented on the quality of my writing and told that I am brave for being a substitute teacher. I’ve even been called brave for writing, querying, and submitting excerpts for contests and critiques. I agree that these were all acts out of my comfort zone and I’m stronger for it.
But when are these same acts an admittance of failure? I’m not talking about the writing – I know that needs time, patience, and WORK (writing, editing and submitting). My husband said that my problem (among many) is that I’m setting the goal too high. If my only measure of success is an agent and a publishing contract, there’s an awfully good chance that I won’t be successful.
So, I have to keep in mind that improvement is a valid measure of success. How will I know if I’ve improved? Receiving better rejections (read – more detailed) is one way. But I guess my instinct has told me that I’m improving and I’ll have to trust it. As long as I continue to improve and enjoy it (when it doesn’t make me want to jump off a cliff), I will not stop.
I will no longer call myself an aspiring author. I am a writer.
What about blogging? Agents and publishers keep insisting:
I didn’t begin my blog as a platform. In fact, I didn’t know I was supposed to build one until I started mine and began reading other blogs. I blogged because chronicling the frustration and humor of subbing would help me get through subbing.
What is blogging to me now? I’ve found a community of writers, teachers, mothers, and all-around fabulous people. I’ve vented and received encouragement. I’ve dished out encouragement. I’ve spent untold time inhaling that sagiosity of agents and editors to improve every bit of my writing: plot, punctuation, grammar, voice, story, protagonist, antagonist, believability, cliché, varying sentences, show don’t tell, dialogue, inciting incident, initial surface problem. story-worthy problem, character development, climax - exhale) querying, and how to take rejections. How did I go without blogging for so long?
But if I look at my blog for validation, then it’s a crutch. This weekend I reached 100 followers and counting. (Thank you, followers!) My follower count is NOT a measure of success in my writing or subbing, so if I use it as such, it will prevent me from doing.
What am I not doing?
I had the BIG BIRTHDAY. The world didn’t end – it didn’t even hiccup. Well, that’s not entirely true. For me, the world skewed and it hasn’t entirely righted itself. I’ve made no secret of the anticipation/dread of reaching a milestone age without a milestone achievement to go with it*.
What if subbing has been for nothing? It was supposed to be a vehicle to get me a job. I was making connections – right place/right time – showing my teaching prowess. Never materialized. My husband called it a failure because I failed to achieve my objective. It didn’t even land me a building sub job, let alone an extended term sub position, let alone an actual full-time, regular teaching job. He empathizes with me getting up early each morning, waiting for a call that may never come, and being hurled into a different situation everyday. Then he asked, “What will you do if you’re still subbing in September?” The question punched me in the stomach.
So, what now? My husband suggests looking for something related to education. I could combine my knowledge of teaching and writing, and write or edit textbooks. There could be an interesting job related to education and no, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring like when I worked at the car insurance company. I protested that working around teaching wasn’t the same as teaching. He explained the term compromise. Believe me, he’s made many on my behalf.
My family has had to make too many compromises because of my failure to achieve my objective. I insist we live in a city, but it’s expensive. My husband reminded me that if I were willing to move away from here, we could afford a house and I wouldn’t have to work.
Why am I dragging my feet? What am I afraid of? It was suggested that I come from a family who settles. It was suggested that I don’t think I’m good enough. If that’s the case, then I have much to consider. I could cling to the comments of people who subbed for a year or two and then got a full-time teaching position. Is the economy holding me back or am I holding myself back?
Should I go back to school? I love to write, so why not become certified in Language Arts?The problem is that it’s not like there are thousands of openings in that subject either. Special Ed. would probably be a smart move. What’s stopping me? Going back to school feels like another stalling tactic. Would it hold me back or propel me forward?
I fear that I’m too old to not know what I want. I’m too old to be scared. I’m too old to be unsure of myself. I’m too old to be paralyzed into a state of indecision.
What’s the next step? I have no epiphany here but that something needs to change. Perhaps this is the mid-point protagonist’s realization that will dictate all actions from now on. I hope so because, right now, I don’t know the answers.
* The first post from my whinefest: