This is a story about all the important things:
Showing up for things, even when you don’t feel like it
Talking to people, even when you feel awkward
Telling the truth about your life
Leaping before you feel ready
Doing the Obvious
We went to the opening party. I felt moody and cross and out of sorts, partly because of the weather and partly because I had made a dumb mistake and missed an event I had been really excited about.
Honestly I was being my Worst Self, not my Best Self. Judging myself for being sloppy and disorganized, which I’m not. Feeling shy and not wanting to approach people. Hiding out in a corner instead of going out and making friends.
Suddenly, there appeared a gentleman with a name tag bearing a fairly uncommon name. I asked him, “Are you related to Chris?”
“Chris who?” he said.
I won’t share all the details of my conversation with this fascinating and funny man, because it was personal and because I want to hog it all to myself. It was transformative for me, though. Not only did his kind attention completely turn around my mood, his advice definitely changed my event and may have changed my life.
I like asking other people about themselves. It’s usually an effective trick for avoiding talking about yourself. It’s a great way to get to know people, draw out fascinating stories, and also pick up book recommendations, travel tips, recipes, life hacks, etc. They win because they get an attentive listener and I win because I can keep it light.
There was no thought in my mind about my book proposal, because I’d scheduled it for July through December this year.
How did we even wind up talking about my book?
Oh, yes, probably because Mike Guilleabeau is an award-winning published author! Multiple awards, I might add. He has writer’s radar.
He drew me out about my potential book and told me I should develop it. Well, sure, yeah, that’s the plan, sometime a million years from now!
More specifically, I should sit up and write a logline, work it into a 30-second pitch, and deliver it to a specific person at a specific time slot.
The person: Literary agent David Fugate, who is attending WDS
The time slot: A “lunch and learn” at noon (15 hours away)
I should practice by approaching three people I don’t know and asking if they would critique my pitch.
This is smart advice, okay. I know this. It’s entirely actionable and NOT SCARY AT ALL, oh no, cough cough, and further, it will probably work.
I know how to give a brief pitch. That’s exactly why I joined Toastmasters 3 1/2 years ago. Evaluations are part of the package, something we’re trained to seek out and receive with keen interest. In fact I win ribbons for impromptu speaking and one-minute speeches all the time.
I know everything about my book, too. I’ve written 180 pages of it and spent years thinking and talking about the topic.
I even approached David Fugate last year and asked, heart in my throat, “Would you publish a book about minimalism?”
Sure, he said.
I know the drill. Write up a proposal and email it in. It will get looked at.
This isn’t a case of not knowing what to do. It isn’t a case of laziness or lack of organization. It’s a case of nerves. It’s a case of putting off for later what feels intimidating to do today.
How you do one thing is how you do everything. The reason you give for not doing something is the same thing that will hold you back everywhere. It’s mind-boggling how often that thing is talking yourself out of going for the thing you want the most.
Too old, too young
Not right now
Not until I can do it perfectly!
The focus and energy we give to eating a donut or a taco is available for planning and tackling a dream project, one bite at a time.
The trouble with my book proposal is that it’s one among many. Not other people’s book proposals - those are no threat to me, because what else would I read if other people quit publishing their books? My book is one of several that *I* plan to write. They exist in my mind as their own independent entities.
If I do one, won’t I then have to do them all? THEN WHAT?
What I have to tell myself, what you should tell yourself too, is that other people deserve a chance to appreciate your work. Why hold back? Someone out there is waiting on it. Waiting to be moved or entertained or challenged.
I think of my own reaction to other people’s work. I think of myself dancing around in the aisle at the bookstore or squealing with delight because one of my favorite authors has a new book coming out. I think of my friends who wait in line for hours to buy concert tickets or movie tickets or a new book or game. We’re hungry for fresh stories and talent in a way that we aren’t for anything else.
Who am I to deny this call?
I have no good reasons whatsoever to pass on Mike Guileabeau’s dare. The worst-case scenario is that I waste thirty seconds of four people’s time, and I can do that in so many other ways!
Just think of all the time in my life that I’ve wasted already, dithering and waffling and hemming and hawing.
I’m going to do it. I’m going to do this thing because if I don’t, I’m a welsher. I’m going to do it because I’ve made a public commitment. If I could finish the marathon by dragging my leg the last eight miles, certainly I can make a 30-second pitch to a man whose livelihood it is to evaluate this kind of pitch.
Okay, now your turn. I dare ya.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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