I was never very adept at dating when I was younger. At least, it didn't feel like I was. Maybe it feels like that for everyone? Or most people, at least. There's always this great ambivalence leading up to asking anyone out. Sometimes soul-crushing ambivalence. Doubt. Fear. And, frequently, you just don't do it, because you decide, before you even ask, that the person you want to ask will say "no."
Of course, when I was in high school (and college), all of this was complicated by "The Girl." I was so stuck on her that it made me incapable of seeing other opportunities that were in front of me. And it lasted for YEARS. And it's not like it was some hidden, unrequited thing, either. She knew how I felt and there was pretty consistent pursuit. In fact, any time I would start to get fatigued, she'd do something to keep me hooked without ever going out with me. She very much wanted to make sure that I didn't date anyone else while still not dating me. I came to hate, "I like you, but..." It was... horrible.
But I was completely blinded by her and her unfulfilled promises and it prompted me to completely turn away several girls who were interested in me just for the chance of going out with "The Girl." That and it felt dishonest to go out with someone when I was clearly attracted to someone else. The couple of times I did actually go out with some other girl, I let "The Girl" mess those up. Like I said, she didn't want to date me, per se, but she didn't want me dating someone else, either.
Eventually, though, I did get past her and started asking out some other girls. And, my gosh, the dread of doing that...
There was this one girl... I think I was a freshman in college (pretty sure), and she was, well, she was older than me, like a junior or something. Blond. Pretty. She sat next to me in... Intro to Drama? Maybe. She sat next to me in something, at any rate, and I really wanted to ask her out. I argued with myself over that for weeks. I gave myself all the reasons why I shouldn't ask her:
"She's older than you."
"Look how pretty she is."
"She'll never say yes to you."
I'm sure there were more, and I'm also sure you get the idea.
At any rate, what it finally came down to for me was this:
If I didn't ask her out, it was the equivalent of a "no." But, if I did ask her out, I might get a "yes." I suppose I couldn't let the possibility slip by, so, one Friday after class when some friends of mine and I were going to hit the local pizza joint, I asked her if she wanted to come along. And...
I did not get a "yes," but I also didn't get a "no." I got a "I can't right now, maybe some other time." And, maybe, that was a "no" and, maybe, it was exactly what it was. I don't know, because I didn't try again. Maybe, I should have; I don't know. The main thing, though, was that I asked her, which I even knew at the time.
That was my thing after that, "If you don't ask [about whatever, not just dating], the answer is always "no." Or to say it the way my mother-in-law used to say it, "Let them say 'no,'" meaning: Don't not ask because you're convinced you'll get a "no." Make them say it.
Of course, I'm not really talking about dating. All of this has to do with what it's like being an independent author. "The Girl" is like that time period where you're stuck on going with a traditional publisher. Most authors go through that and will pursue it for years and years. They'll jump through all kinds of hoops thrown out there by "The Girl," um, I mean Agents. "I like it, but..."
You just need to change these parts.
You just need to write it first person.
You just need to have a love triangle.
blah blah blah
All of that when it's not really about you, anyway. They just want the attention and the power (and I'm not talking about any specific agent; I mean that in a general sense about the way that part of publishing works).
Of course, I could also talk about looking for an agent in the same context of dating, but I'm not going to do that, because I don't think most authors ought to be looking for agents, but that's a post for another time.
What I want to talk about is the whole thing of putting yourself out there. I mean, that's what dating is: putting yourself out there and becoming vulnerable. You risk the big "NO" any time you ask someone out, and that risk is scary, and it never feels good to get it. But you don't always get a "no." I hope.
Putting your book out there is a lot like this. Putting it out there where people can see it and read it is risking the big "No" of bad reviews (and no reviews), no sales, and people responding negatively to you rather than your work. It can be... hard. Scary.
But not putting your stuff out there is the same as not asking. Don't let the fear that people won't like what you have to say keep you from making it available. Let them say "no." And some people will say "no," but some people will say "Yes!" And isn't it those people we're writing for anyway?
This post has been brought to you in part by Indie Life.