04/06/16 update: Just to clarify, the book isn’t available quite yet, but you can learn more and download a free chapter here!
Fear is a very real thing.
It’s easy to be afraid of snakes and ISIS and Donald Trump, but there’s also a different kind of fear that I’ve been wrestling lately: The fear of risk and the fear of vulnerability.
Putting yourself out there—the real you, not the doctored one we all put online and in casual relationships—that is scary. When you’re brave enough to be honest and share your passions with the world, you’re inviting criticism and negative feedback. Why in the heck would you want to invite people to critique you?
When you work for days and months and years on a project, you feel connected to it in a way that makes it hard to share. Criticism becomes more personal, and it’s easy to associate your worth with your work. When you take a stand, you will upset someone. But, as the famous quote says, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” (shoutout to my boy, Hamilton)
As Jon Acuff recently wrote, it’s tempting to believe you shouldn’t share something you’ve created until “it’s so good that no one can criticize it.”
This is true for everyone, but I think it’s especially true for those of us who live and work in art/communication/creativity land—a mystical land full of rainbows and hipsters and coffee and an overflowing waterfall of good ideas.
Or something like that.
With every graphic I make and every video I edit, I feel like I leave a piece of me in it, so the responses I receive—or don’t receive—feel very personal.
I know I’m beginning to sound like a real tortured artist, and I don’t mean to.
But here’s why I’ve been afraid lately:
I wrote a book.
Like, a real one. With a cover and table of contents and an ISBN number and a bar code that you can buy on Amazon.
If you’ve known me for a while, you know that I love to write and occasionally have silly little things about Star Wars or dream jobs published online. Writing a book has always been on my bucket list, and recently I decided to take a leap and go for it.
Here’s the funny thing: I’ve been done with it for months and didn’t tell anyone. I started three years ago and kept putting it off.
I was afraid it would be really horrible. I was afraid no one would care. I was afraid I’d spend a lot of my own money and no one would ever buy it. I was afraid of one-star Amazon reviews and I was afraid of finding every copy I ever sold at a used bookstore in the bargain bin.
But more than that, I was afraid I would upset people. There are a lot of pieces of me scattered in these pages, and you may not like or agree with everything you see. Beyond the surface level stuff I’ve posted before, I go deeper in this project into things that are really important to me. I was afraid people would see me differently, and they may not like what they saw.
That is scary.
More details will be coming soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to publish this post, because I know if I do, I have to finish. Now that it’s out there, you can keep me accountable. It would be easy to keep this thing stored on a hard drive and never allow it to see the light of day, but I want to be brave. I want to be bold enough to share my thoughts on things that are important.
Recently I read a great blog post by Paul Jarvis about gravy. You don’t need gravy to eat a meal, but it sure makes things taste better. In his work, Paul makes a conscious effort to set very modest goals. He sets low expectations that he can live with, because “I consider anything beyond a little bit of success to be gravy. Sweet, delicious gravy.”
With most things in life, you can’t control other people’s reactions. It would be very unhealthy and very unwise to allow others to dictate how happy or successful you are. That’s a very easy thing to get sucked into, but it’s a very dangerous trap where it’s impossible to be happy.
So, with this project, my expectations are super low. I hope I sell five copies and one of those five people likes it. I hope my family and closest friends enjoy and are challenged by my words. If nothing else, I’ll know that I did it: I published a book. That’s it.
If I sell ten or 15 copies, bring on the gravy train.
I’ll be sharing more about my book soon, but in the meantime, here’s my takeaway for you: If I can do this, you can, too. Don’t be afraid of letting the world see the real you. It’s a much better and more rewarding way to live. Plus, (to quote Acuff again) the fear I’m talking about “has kept many a book stuck in a laptop, many a business stuck in a head, and many a painting stuck in the studio.”
Let it out, and enjoy the gravy.