So as of January, I’ve started working out. At least until the pandemic hit and closed the gym next to my day job. I guess it closed my day job too, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home. Anyway, at this gym the trainers are super friendly, and I’d been going in on my lunch break. After they’d seen me there a few times, and I’d asked a few really newb questions—like how to turn on the elliptical (start walking), or how to adjust the seat on weight machine (twist, then pull), they offered to show me how to do free weights while I was there. I’d already told them I wanted to get down to a less cuddly and more healthy weight.
And I was like, “uh, what? I only have half an hour, you know.” And they assured me that half an hour was more than enough. My burning muscles going back down the stairs to that gym complained that a more accurate statement would have been that even fifteen minutes would’ve been enough—when you have someone kind enough to show you what you’re doing. Side note: I don’t let them show me new things over the lunch-break anymore. New stuff is for early or the weekend. I was being entirely to entertaining for the whole office with sound effects the rest of the day.
That got me thinking.
So much of what holds us back is our expectation of hardship. Our imagination looking at something that seems overwhelming, and immediately categorizing it as impossible for us. What I’ve discovered at the gym is that things I assumed were naturally “just me getting older,” have gotten slowly better day-by-day as I’ve been stretching and taking care of neglected muscles. And it made me realize that previously, exercise intimidated me. I was asthmatic. I had to take inhalers before gym my whole childhood. Physical activity was never my first go-to, or the first thing my parents would suggest. I’d pick up a book, or watch a movie, or craft instead. I assumed that I’d be no good at this “working out” thing. Or that people would make fun of me for being such a late starter. But for the most part people have been kind, and willing to show me things appropriate for where I’m at.
It made me realize I’m not usually the person who runs at new experiences full-tilt. I want to evaluate it first.
But I have to watch out for when the task starts to loom in my mind, bigger than it actually is. When I was a brand-new writer, I felt the same way about established authors who had their own fan bases, their own back list of titles. I couldn’t understand why they would want to talk to a young writer like me, who probably had nothing of note to say. Notice how younger me assumed that I didn’t bring anything to the table. It took me years to realize that you always bring yourself to the table. The “you” that is your accumulation of knowledge, experience, culture, and perceptions.
Now that I have a few titles, and a publishing company of my own, I understand young writers also bring with them enthusiasm, their love for the worlds & characters they create, their passion for learning the tools of the trade. I like talking to them too, because I have been where they are. I enjoy sharing the knowledge and hard work that I’ve put in with someone who appreciates it just as much as I do. And if anything I happen to say sticks with them and works with their writing process, then that’s a beautiful thing. Writers, no matter what stage of their development, all have the same goals as I do—to tell the most interesting, gripping story possible about people that the reader doesn’t want to leave behind after the story ends. And I’ve honed those skills, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, as I sit at my keyboard typing. Which is not so different, as it turns out, than me getting onto a treadmill or lifting weights day-by-day to slowly lower weight on a scale, and feel more in balance in my own skin. Both interactions are totally worth it and both have merit.
As a newer small press, I feel like I’m still finding my mentors and all the pitfalls in this whole publishing thing. But I know I still want to tell the best stories that make us laugh, cry, and think. What I’ve learned in this last year is: next time I’m confronted by an impossible task, now I know to recruit mentors, learn from their experience, and not be frozen by the fear of messing up. I hope that holds true for you too. I’ll be here cheering for us all.