I took a flying trapeze class today at Trapeze School New York - Washington D.C. This was my second class ever-- there's a video of my first catch at STREB NYC here. And I was scared to death--but not for the reason you might think.
When I took that first class two years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. Working out with a personal trainer twice a week, eating on the slow-carb diet, swinging my kettlebell. I was at my lowest weight and dress size since middle school. I was 35 and brimming with confidence.
Cut to now. In between apartment living, delicious downtown food options, a couple of hefty deadlines, a drug interaction that sent me to the ER, and two months in bed recovering from a broken back, I'm up ten (or fifteen, goddammit) pounds, barely getting exercise, totally out of shape, upset with myself, unhappy with my body, and taking protective measures against constantly threatening panic attacks. To be honest, I almost didn't sign up for this trapeze class because I was scared.
Not scared of falling or getting hurt. Scared of failing.
What if I couldn't get my knees hooked over the bar? What if I was *worse* this time than I was last time?
Today in the taxi, I thought about what it would be like if I couldn't surpass the tricks I'd learned last time. If I couldn't even accomplish what I'd accomplished then. I could almost imagine the instructors talking to me like a child.
"Good job. You almost got it that time. Let's step back and do less."
You know. Just like the gymnastics instructor told me when I was a kid, right before she suggested that I was too fat to tumble and should probably stop wasting my parents' money.
These days, I'm competitive. I like to push myself. I can't stand being patronized.
If I couldn't succeed, would it even be fun?
I went anyway. Paid online so I couldn't back out.
When I got there, they asked me what I'd done before and said to do it again. There were 10 people. 5 of them were regulars. Most of them were thinner, in better shape. Was I about to embarrass myself?
I didn't rush to the front of the line. When it was my turn, I put hands on the ladder and thought, "I wish I hadn't done this."
I climbed up and up and up, got to the top of the ladder, and clung to it. I didn't feel that sense of OMG THIS IS AMAZING OMG THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN.
I thought OMG, I AM GOING TO MUCK THIS UP.
But when my hand wrapped around the trapeze....
All the doubts and worries fell away. All the disappointment in myself and body hatred was gone. It was just me and the trapeze, and they said, "Ready! Hup!", and then I was flying.
When I'm on the ground and the instructor explains what I'm supposed to do, it makes utterly no sense to me. Kind of like if someone told you, in the language of Calculus and Physics, how to catch a softball by calculating the arc mid-throw, you (probably) wouldn't understand it, yet when the softball is hurtling toward your head, you can catch it easily. On the ground, I feel clumsy and slow. But in the air and in the water and on horseback... I'm magical.
All that stinkin' thinkin' I had earlier? Was wrong. I did great. I did everything I was able to last time, when I weighed 15 pounds less and had guns. I learned a new trick. I succeeded at both catches. I had a great time.
That's the thing about fear. FEAR LIES.
Fear tells you that you shouldn't do something because you might fail, because you're too old, because you're an underdog or don't have the right credentials. Fear tells you that failing is the end instead of the beginning. Fear tells you it's better not to try, to remain complacent and safe and never take chances. Fear says you shouldn't take the class or climb the ladder. And all of that? Is a lie.
Back when I wrote my first book, I was terrified of querying. What if the book was awful? What if the agents thought I was an idiot? What if I went through every agent on the planet and couldn't find representation? The first time I hit SEND on a query, I was fairly certain the laptop was going to blow up.
Turns out, I received my first form rejection within one minute.
I did not blow up.
I sent out the next query.
I sent queries to every agent on my list. I got some full requests, but ultimately, I had to accept that that book wasn't good enough. But that didn't mean I'd failed. That meant that it was time to write the next book.
Failure is part of the system. There is a good chance your first book sucks. You are probably querying too early. You're going to get rejected. And that's how you learn. That's how you level up. That's how you become a better writer and a stronger person.
The only failure is when you give up.
It might take years. You might have to write several books. You might even get so far as to nab an agent and then fail to sell your book on submission. But that is not failing. Failing is when you stop writing. When you stop learning. When you do nothing. When you don't show up in the first place.
So take it from the girl with the bruised knees and the huge smile: DO THE THING.
Take the class. Go to the con. Send the query. Write the next book. Don't let fear lie to you. Don't let failure scare you.
Find what makes you fly.
Also, you might want to buy my next book, HIT. It's out next Tuesday. You're gonna love it.