There are two types of fear:
First off, there is a fear of something that is presently before you, be it a monster under your bed or a knife welding maniac pounding his fist through your door. It’s a fear that you recognize as a fear that is approaching you at the very moment. It may not even be something drastic, it could very well be that the fear before you may be a confrontation with an enemy, a fear of heights or even a fear of tuna (trust me, it exists). Regardless, the fear is IN YOUR FACE and it’s not planning on making a timely departure in the near future.
The second type of fear I believe is worse. This type is a type of in which you do not see a reaction right away, or in some cases, ever. You make work on something your entire life and fear the outcome, but the outcome may only catch up with you years down the road. This fear seems to come in more forms than we mere mortals can comprehend. It is a fear of success, a fear of failure; a fear of unbelievable strength and power. It can crush you under its masculine hand and suck the life out of you because although it is not standing before you staring you right in the eye, it is mentally tormenting you to the point of self destruction.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fear imposed on the hearts of young authors during their process to the world of publication. That, in a sum up, is the way I have been living my life since last February, when I began the road (less traveled by many a young Orthodox women) towards publication. I could technically say that I’ve been living my life in such a way since I began writing Shattered Illusions, but I don’t think the fear manifested in such a way until I met Barry (my editor and publisher. An amazing guy with a powerful love for the written word. I am incredibly lucky to have had the pleasure to work him with on this project. Check him out) and began the path down the journey that I am currently on.
The truth of the matter is that until this past Thursday night, I had no way of truly expressing what this fear was. I felt it hanging over me like an ax, I knew the feeling as though it was a long time companion, but I was yet to find a word to describe such a panicky feeling. The miraculous thing about this fear is that oddly enough, other people feel it too, and sometimes, when you give yourself the piece of mind to listen to a fellow artist, they can do the defining for you.
On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of attending a Q&A session and book signing by the incredible Mark Danielewski, author of the mind blowing “House of Leaves” and the earth shattering “Only Revolutions.” You must understand something: Like most unassuming young readers, I stumbled upon House of Leaves at my local book store, almost as though I had been pulled to the book by a force I have come to call fate. House of Leaves is the type of novel that not only changes your life in drastic ways, but also causes you to feel empowered (and scared, nervous, nauseous and about a hundred other unnerving emotions) about your own writing. At the time, I was about seven months away from the completion of Shattered Illusions. House of Leaves was a breath of fresh air, and I immediately became obsessed with the maddening style of Danielewski’s writing. I needed his powerful novels in my life in a way that could be considered addictive. Don’t believe me? Read them and see for yourself.
The Fifty Year Sword, Danielewski’s fourth novel was released earlier this month, and in honor of the release, he has been traveling around the country on a promotion tour. (He’s performing The Fifty Year Sword tomorrow night in Brooklyn, to miss it would be sin like). When I heard that he would be giving a Q&A/Book Reading/Signing at NYU, it was like fate giving me a directive to go. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
The evening began with a discussion between Danielewski and NYU’s Contemporary Lit Professor. They discussed an array of topics ranging from the shock value of his novels, to stories about his journey to where he stands today. One thing is for sure: Divine Providence was pushing him along the entire way, something I can very much say about my own journey as a writer.
When he read an excerpt of The Fifty Year Sword, I cried heavy tears, a mixture of the overwhelming emotions caused by sitting only 15 feet away from a brilliant man, and the heart felt voice with which he read (probably for the millionth time), the opening pages of what I expect will be a horrifyingly beautiful masterpiece.
He had a Q&A session with the audience after reading an excerpt of The Fifty Year Sword, and I was the final audience member to have a chance to ask him a question. He had mentioned that it took 30 rejections from publishers before someone took a chance on The House of Leaves. So I asked him if he could bestow advice on those of us that are currently in their first publishing process. Never stop writing was the main piece of advice. The most important words I took from his answer was that your life as a writer and your daily living should NOT be independent of each other. Your life as a writer and your life as an ordinary person are, essentially, the same thing. I was almost in tears when he spoke. He brought up delayed fear again and of Roberto Bolano’s life as a writer which made my heart soar with happiness (I was sitting full of room that “speak my language.” It was something to cry tears of joy over).
At the book signing, I timidly made my way over to him. As he began to sign my book, I told him that his piece of advice made all the difference to me. To my amazement, he then asked me how my writing process is going. He automatically realized that I am a writer (I guess that such a quality is recongnizable). He took the time to ask me about my book, the title and how I feel about it. I assumed that he would simply sign my book and ask me to move on. But no, he took the time to have a quick chat with every person that came to the table. I asked him for a picture to which he happily agreed. I thanked him, he wished me much success and then I began to make my exit.
As I walked out of the lecture hall and out into the street, I couldn’t help but begin to sob. A mixture of happiness, overwhelming shock, and a bit of sorrow took over. I was shocked at the kind, humble nature of this brilliant man and the fact that he took the time to make a personal connection with me, at least on a certain level. It was not something I expected, or even deserved. I was absolutely blown away.
I was able to walk out of there with a new level of confidence for this process that I don’t think is explainable. How can I explain how beautiful, brilliant and mind blown I feel now?
I stand now, a few days after this event, with the same amount of worry as before, possibly even more (there’s nothing like a couple hundred review rejections to humble a person). But, I have a new understanding of who I am as a person, who I am as a writer.
“The real satisfaction comes from things that one can never expected at the beginning of such a journey.” Such are the words spoken by the brilliant Mark Danielewski. It was truly a pleasure and an honor to meet him. So, Mark, if you are reading this: Thank You.
L’Chaim (Cheers) to a great week my friends!