Being Eaten By a Swarm of Bears While Thinking About What If

I spent three nights in the tent last week. The low temperature was in the teens, and my high sleep score (Thank you, FitBit.) was 82. That is, I slept “better” in the tent than I usually do in the house. (Possibly because the sleeping bag has a few straitjacket tendencies, so there’s less tossing and turning.)

And then, I spent a couple of days sick with some kind of Franken-flu-cold thing.

As proof-of-concept goes, I can’t really call that a success. Even if you don’t really catch cold from being cold, and even if I wasn’t really cold, I have to admit the coincidence makes me nervous. So, just as I’m closing in on 1.) Will not freeze to death and 2.) Will not be too tired to function the next day… I have to add 3.) Will not die of dysentery (or bubonic plague, or botulism) the next week. Maybe it’s just a confidence thing.

Sometimes, you just have to do the things you aren’t sure you can do.

This afternoon, at lunch, one of my co-workers sat down beside me. (Loudly, BTW.) There’s nothing quite like having a notebook in front of you, and a pen in your hand to guarantee that someone will want to talk. Double points for interrupting you while you’re in a last-minute writing frenzy trying to hit the end of the scene before you hit the end of lunch.

So, my co-worker’s bag hit the table I was working on with a resounding thump.

Let the talking begin.

Talking? I mean questioning.

Now, to be fair, the woman in question is one of the ones I truly believe is sincere. And I think she’d like to be a writer. She says so, anyway.

She asked how it was going. (I’m working on my last read-through/revision/whatever before I start sending it out, again. Thanks for asking.)

She asked–slightly more pointedly–how it was going with the submissions. (See above.)

She expressed admiration that I was on my third (uhm… third? where’d she get that number?) novel, and her doubts about her own ability to do the same. (I probably could have been more reassuring. If my anthropologist-concubine weren’t about to spill the beans.)

And she said a few things that have probably flitted through all our heads, from time to time. Mostly about public figures and how unfair it is that I’m going through all this and they can just wander into a book deal. (Well, they do have a bigger audience than I have.) Something about a children’s book by a pop star or a tattoo artist, or something. (No, I did not mention to her that my last attempt at YA ended tragically when my main character chose “Domestic Triad” as the solution to a love triangle.)

That’s why she doesn’t write, you know. Rejection.

That’s not why she doesn’t write.

I think she does write, to be honest. I can’t imagine she doesn’t have a few notebooks, or diaries, or poems lying around.

But if she doesn’t, it’s not because she’s afraid her third novel will be rejected.

It’s because writing a novel is something she’s not really sure she can do.

You know… like me and that long-distance, pipe-dream hike of mine.

And that uncertainty…

Well, it leads to all kinds of “what if” questions. What if I freeze? What if I get lost, and wander into a swarm of bears?

And it’s not difficult to let the questions turn into reasons. I’ll freeze. Maybe I’ll starve. Most likely, I’ll get eaten by bears.

HOW is a better question. Asking how you are going to do something tends to result in answers.

One how at a time. And then, eventually, you realize you really can do the thing.


  1. Reply

    Someone recently told me that 90% of the challenges we, as writers, face are really in our own heads. Or perhaps another way of saying that is that our self doubt will make every obstacle seem ten times worse than it really is.

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