I rarely finish what I begin when it comes to writing. I have many unfinished drafts of short stories, novels, and even children’s picture books. All at various stages of “starts”. It’s as if I have built an author’s greenhouse and have cultivated story seedlings. They are all in precious stages of growth, with their dainty sprouts unfurling in the humid air. The problem, of course, is that I although I say I have every intention of transplanting my precious little starts and watching them grow into flowering whatevers, with blooms and bouncing leaves, I really know that I don’t. I want to keep them as my experimental green things in sweet smelling dirt.
The problem, you see, is that I have no fear of starting anything at all. My problem is in the finishing, the planting, the cultivating, the harvesting. And so when I am asked to finish the sentence “The worst thing that can happen if I don’t start is…” I have to laugh. I have no fear in failing. Any visit through my backyard could tell you that I am a miserable producer of anything. The only thing I can grow is peas and sometimes a handful of onions. I can’t even grow tomatoes, and practically anyone can grow tomatoes.
No… the worst thing that can happen is that I would succeed! What on earth would I do if I started something, finished it, and that tart of a story actually became a success? What if I then had expectations placed on me? What if it was actually true that I could do something with words other than plant a few here or there in some dirt and watch them maybe grow sometimes. What if I’m asked to do it again, and I couldn’t?
And yet, at the same time, I enjoy what I do. I enjoy failing at succeeding. I’m a miserable failure at it. There is a certain satisfaction in taking out one of my little creations and planting it in readied soil, giving it the sunshine and attention it needs and watching it bloom. Sometimes it blooms into something I wasn’t expecting. I enjoy this quiet success and, though I am uncomfortable when people admire the growing florals amongst the dandelions, I do like to pat the little petals and sprinkle some water on it. I find my passion in the process and not so much the final harvest.
Slowly, I find myself finishing things off. I feel myself driven to move on to other projects and brainstorming new story lines. I’m feeling anxious to clear out my greenhouse and begin new seedlings. I feel the same fear. The same apprehension flutters with the birds in the trees. The feel is still real that I may have expectations thrown at me, but I’m slowly forcing myself to learn that the only expectations that matter are my own. I can no longer think in terms of “the worst thing that can happen”. I can only internalize “the next thing that will happen”. This is where I need to be. I’ve been paralyzed by the worst thing for far too long.
Prompted by: ”Bring to mind something you really want to do but are afraid of starting… With that thought in mind, complete the following sentence: ‘The worst thing that can happen if I don’t start is…’” by Tara Rodden Robinson for A Year With Myself
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